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

Part I - JoCo Sports Council Develops Four New Bike Routes

Part I - JoCo Sports Council Develops Four New Bike Routes

Part One in a four part series on the new JoCo Bike Routes

One of the first county-wide projects the Johnston County Sports Council tackled was developing new on-road routes for biking enthusiasts.  Currently along the country roads of the Johnston, residents may spot individual riders and club rides biking almost every morning and especially on Saturdays.

The Selma Cyclepaths have a loyal team of riders in the county, however, visitors and bikers from Wake County are now making trips over to enjoy our wide open spaces.  With these new approved bike routes, the Visitors Bureau will have established routes to market via brochures, online biking sites, hotel packages, and our county websites.

There will be four NCDOT adopted bike routes which will cover most all areas east, west, north and south.  The routes have been vetted by the NC Department of Transportation Bike and Ped Division and each local planning department has reviewed and provided a resolution of support for the routes.  The Visitors Bureau is currently designing the new JoCo Bike Route Brochure to be printed in December...interested riders can call and we will mail out brochures or printer-friendly versions will be on our website.

Through a series of BLOG posts we will take you through each new bike ride in the county.

Smithfield, Bentonville, Four Oaks Route

Bike Routes SmithfieldStart Here:  Rider's begin their trek at the Smithfield Town Commons located in the heart of Downtown Smithfield along the Neuse River. 

Historic Downtown Smithfield is the site of the 3-mile Buffalo Creek Greenway and the Smithfield Town Commons park.  There is street parking on Front St., a boat ramp for river access, and visitors are within walking distance to the Ava Gardner Museum, Neuse Little Theatre, Johnston County Heritage Center and several local restaurants for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Smithfield is home to the Ham & Yam Festival the first weekend in May, where concerts are held at the Town Commons.

Head out of town:  Take the neighborhood ride out on Third Street to Brogden Road, the birthplace of Ava Gardner 'til you reach the Richardson Bridge Rd. Boat Ramp.

Start your ride through the historic Brooklyn neighborhood to Brogden Road, and you will find yourself in the countryside in no time.  Travel seven miles east to the crossroads community known as Grabtown or Brogden.  Ava Gardner's childhood home, "The Teacherage" is located on the corner of Brogden and Grabtown Rd.  Continue along Brogden Road until a right on Richardson Bridge will take you over the Neuse River.  Richardson Bridge Rd. offers boating access to the Neuse River for fishing, canoeing and kayaking trips. 

It's a history lesson:  Cross over the Neuse River into the Bentonville Community, site of the last major Confederate offensive of the Civil War.  Bike along the Carolina's Campaign Civil War Driving Trail which takes you by the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site. 

The village of Bentonville was the site of the largest Civil War battle and last major Confederate offensive fought in North Carolina.  There are more than six driving pull-offs for an interesting explanation of the battle throughout this 6,000 acre battlefield.  If time permits, stop by the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site for a tour of the museum and Historic Harper House.

Howell WoodsRecreational trip for another visit:  Leaving this area's rich history travel by Howell Woods, a recreation destination for another visit for hiking, biking, bird-watching and more. 

As the route makes a turn back, you will pass by the entrance to Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center, which has 25-miles of hiking and biking trails to explore.  This recreational venue is known for exceptional trails, birding, hunting, canoeing, hiking and fishing.  We hope you will visit us again for this and other hidden gems in the county for a day trip, or you can opt to stay on site at their eco-friendly cabins.

Need a shopping basket:  Travel on to the quaint community of Four Oaks then head back to Smithfield along US Highway 301. 

As you enter the community of Four Oaks, and you might want to take a break, the local honey produced here is a available for sale at the Shamrock Buzzy Bee in Downtown Four Oaks.  They have honey, soaps, homemade breads, cookies, candles and more.

Day trip bike ride or overnight visit?

We hope you will enjoy exploring Smithfield's bike route, the countryside, the history, and the community of Four Oaks!  Smithfield is home to Carolina Premium Outlet where you can do some serious shopping.  Several hotels are located near the outlet center for your visit....we suggest you make it a weekend.  We have much to offer those wishing to explore....add on a visit to one of our wineries or breweries too!  Find our more on our website, www.johnstoncountync.org













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Part II - Clayton Bike Route

Part II - Clayton Bike Route

Part Two in a four part series on the new JoCo Bike Routes

One of the first county-wide projects the Johnston County Sports Council tackled was developing new on-road routes for biking enthusiasts.  Currently along the country roads of the Johnston, residents may spot individual riders and club rides biking almost every morning and especially on Saturdays.

There will be four NCDOT adopted bike routes which will cover most all areas east, west, north and south.  The routes have been vetted by the NC Department of Transportation Bike and Ped Division and each local planning department has reviewed and provided a resolution of support for the routes.  The Visitors Bureau is currently designing the new JoCo Bike Route Brochure to be printed in December...interested riders can call and we will mail out brochures or printer-friendly versions will be on our website.

Through a series of BLOG posts we will take you through each new bike ride in the county.

Clayton, Archer Lodge, Wilson's Mill Route

Morning Glory Inn

Start Here:  Horne Plaza or Deep River Brewing are the jumping off spots for this bike trail which takes you along the trail heads for the Clayton River Walk Greenway. 

Why not stay overnight either at the Morning Glory Inn or Comfort Suites, then spend the next day exploring the communities along this bike route.  Downtown Clayton is a sweet destination and you will find an itinerary just for your sweet tooth on www.johnstoncountync.org.

You will find Clayton one of the more challenging rides in the series with hills you might not expect in the Piedmont area.  Just a short distance out of downtown, discover the trail heads for the Sam's Branch Greenway Trail and Clayton River Walk which connects to Wake County.  If you want to add an excursion to the bike route, feel free to ride along these trails.

Head out of Clayton: Travel north out of town to the growing community of Archer Lodge through rolling terrain and beautiful farm lands.   Bikers will also find golf courses and fun adventures for the whole family at Boyette Family Farms. 

Loop Southeast and cross the Neuse:  Head southeast towards the Town of Wilson's Mills, crossing over the Neuse River. Nearby on US 70, you will find Double Barley Brewing, where award-winning craft beers are waiting. But for now head back to Clayton to finish up this ride.

More to do in Clayton:  Check the community calendar for the latest events in Clayton, www.johnstoncountyevents.com

Clayton_ClaytonCenter.jpgThe Town of Clayton offers visitors to the area several things to do, whether walking or riding you may enjoy the public arts projects in Downtown, head back to Deep River Brewing for a tasting, live music at The Flip Side or you may plan your visit to coincide with a performance at The Clayton Center.  Downtown offers several dining experiences as well from the unique Peruvian Lucky Chicken to fine dining at the Clayton Steak House or the new Mannings Restaurant.

For the official visitor information site for the Clayton area, visit www.visitclayton.org






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Part III - Pine Level, Micro, Kenly Bike Route

Part III - Pine Level, Micro, Kenly Bike Route

Part Three in a four part series on the new JoCo Bike Routes

One of the first county-wide projects the Johnston County Sports Council tackled was developing new on-road routes for biking enthusiasts.  Currently along the country roads of the county, residents may spot individual riders and club rides biking almost every morning and especially on Saturdays.

The Selma Cyclepaths have a loyal team of riders in the county, however, visitors and bikers from Wake County are now making trips over to enjoy our wide open spaces.  With these new approved bike routes, the Visitors Bureau will have established routes to market via brochures, online biking sites, hotel packages, and our county websites.

There are four NCDOT adopted bike routes which cover most all areas east, west, north and south.  Both the Smithfield and Clayton routes have been discussed in detail in the two previous blog posts. This blog will explore the loop from Pine Level, to Kenly, to Micro, and back to Pine Level. The routes have been vetted by the NC Department of Transportation Bike and Ped Division and each local planning department has reviewed and provided a resolution of support for the routes.  The Visitors Bureau currently has a new JoCo Bike Route Brochure... interested riders can call and we will mail out brochures or printer-friendly versions will be on our website soon.

Through a series of BLOG posts we will take you through each new bike ride in the county.

Pine Level, Micro, Kenly Route

Start here:  Great parking is available at the Sam Godwin Park in Pine Level to begin your bike ride, with a great stop just minutes down the road at Hinnant Family Vineyard and Winery. 

Hinnant's Vineyard is the largest muscadine vineyard in the state with more than 75 acres of grapes. This award-wining winery has a tasting room with a variety of muscadine wines, Norton reds, specialty wines like the Ava Gardner "Barefoot Beauty" dry Blanc Du Bois, and fruit wines like strawberry, blackberry, peach, and pomegranate.

Hinnant Winery

Head northeast out of Pine Level: through beautiful farmland and find out more about our agricultural heritage.

Travel through rich farm lands all the way to the Town of Kenly, home to the Tobacco Farm Life Museum that offers weekly heritage events every Saturday showcasing farm heritage, crafts, and farm life. The Tobacco Farm Life Museum has been serving visitors an agritourism experience for more than 25 years with a 6,000 square foot museum, reconstructed farmstead dwellings, and special events held throughout the year.

Tobaccon Farm Life Museum

Head back to vineyards:  Once you travel through Friendly Kenly, return back to Pine Level along Lowell Mill Road, which will take you back by the winery. The Selma/Pine Level loop is perfect for a return trip for shopping for antiques, DeWaynes, or great bargains at JR Outlet. Just minutes from Pine Level, outlet shoppers and lovers of antiques will enjoy Selma. Home to the entertaining and family-friendly American Music Jubilee country music variety show.

For more information - lodging, food, activities - click on Pine Level, Kenly, or Selma.


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Part Four - Benson Bike Route

Part Four - Benson Bike Route

Part Four is the final installment in this series on the new JoCo Bike Routes

One of the first county-wide projects the Johnston County Sports Council tackled was developing new on-road routes for biking enthusiasts.  Currently along the country roads of the Johnston, residents may spot individual riders and club rides biking almost every morning and especially on Saturdays.

The Selma Cyclepaths have a loyal team of riders in the county, however, visitors and bikers from Wake County are now making trips over to enjoy our wide open spaces.  With these new approved bike routes, the Visitors Bureau will have established routes to market via brochures, online biking sites, hotel packages, and our county websites.

There will be four NCDOT adopted bike routes which will cover most all areas east, west, north and south.  The routes have been vetted by the NC Department of Transportation Bike and Ped Division and each local planning department has reviewed and provided a resolution of support for the routes.  The Visitors Bureau is currently designing the new JoCo Bike Route Brochure to be printed in October...interested riders can call and we will mail out brochures, or printer-friendly versions will be on our website.

Through a series of BLOG posts we will take you through each new bike ride in the county.

Benson, McGee's Crossroads Route

Benson Singing GroveA great place to start this bike trail is the Benson Singing Grove in the heart of Downtown Benson, and travel north out of town on Main Street/Hwy 50 to Benson Hardee Rd.  This farming community has been producing tobacco and sweet potatoes for over 250 years and remains predominantly agricultural. 

Travel out to the Gregory Vineyards & Winery and enjoy the scenic vineyards and farm...just a lovely spot to rest if you have some time.  Sip some wine and fuel up at the restaurant attached to the winery.

Continue west to the community known as Elevation, heart of sweet potato country and then loop back south towards Benson.  This route will take you near Tucker Lake, and Enoch Winery which are two great stops for another visit to the area as well. This region, known as Broadslab, has a Moonshine legacy and now offers a legal establishment aptly names Broadslab Distillery. The tasting room is nearby on Hwy 50, and worthy of a return visit... it's the real deal.

Back in Benson, rest at the Grove and take a stroll along the charming Main Street for a bit of shopping and a great meal at Miss Maude's Cafe. Or for a sweet treat stop by Warren Drug Store at the soda fountain for a Lemonade or ice cream cone, and for some chocolate visit Jenny's Sweet Creations. You deserve it after your ride! Benson also offers several parks for a stroll and the Benson Museum of Local History is like stepping back in time with extensive displays on the history of Benson, farming, business, and local artists.

Find out more by visiting the Benson website.





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Day Tripping Ideas - FALL in Johnston County

Day Tripping Ideas - FALL in Johnston County

We all live very busy lives and just keeping the family organized, the house cleaned, the kids to practice or dance, and a hundred other things that fill up our day -- it all can be overwhelming.  That's why when you think about entertainment, outings with the children or family visiting for the weekend, we suggest you rely on your local Convention & Visitors Bureau for ideas, deals, and suggested itineraries.  That's what we spend our days doing to help visitors, local residents, and day trippers.  If you live within an hour's drive of Johnston County, we have several ideas for day trips for you to consider.

Fall is all about Festivals!

Benson Mule DaysIt's fall and that means football, fall leaves, the State Fair, and a host of festivals throughout North Carolina.  Johnston County has a long history of agricultural related venues and events with several festivals to choose from, the Clayton Harvest Festival is held the third weekend of September, the Farm Fest concert brings country music's best to Selma the first weekend in October.  Spend that Saturday strolling the streets of Selma's Railroad Festival and the evening singing along with your favorite country star. 

If you have done the State Fair year after year, and want to try a smaller version (less people, better parking), the Benson Mule Days Festival is as close to a county fair that Johnston County has to offer.  They have the midway with games, fair food, and vendors, as well as, carnival rides, concerts, parades, and rodeos.  Get the full details on their website, www.bensonmuledays.com  For a day trip, we suggest coming Saturday for the full experience...the parade, free Bluegrass in the Grove, carnival rides and BBQ by White Swan BBQ.

Like to get out on the farm for some pumpkin pickin', corn mazes, and grape stomping?  Visit the Boyette Family Farm near Clayton, or schedule a visit to the Lazy O Farm or Smith's Farm near Smithfield, or for something different, our wineries offer events in the fall, like the Grape Stomp at Gregory Vineyards or the Harvest Ball at Hinnants Family Vineyard and Winery.

Holiday time is for Outlet Shopping and Christmas Music!

AMJ Christmas ShowStarting in early November the traffic at Carolina Premium Outlet increases as we all start working checking off items on our Christmas List...check the deals we find at the outlets, including JR Outlets in Selma too!  Sign up for the VIP Club with Carolina Premium Outlets and get emails on special events and sales.  A day trip for shopping works any time of the year or if you need to get away, our Girlfriends Getaway package offers deals on hotels, area attractions, and is great for a weekend with your BFF. 

For some family fun, the American Music Jubilee Theatre is perfect for all generations.  This musical variety show for the Holidays begins the first week of November and runs through the week of Christmas.  It's fun and will keep everyone in the holiday spirit -- add a visit to an area restaurant for the family, or if you have a church group that loves to get out for a day trip...this a very popular trip.  Dates and tickets are available on their website, www.amjubilee.com

Love to explore the arts in Johnston County?

The Clayton CenterJust within the Triangle area, there are hundreds of options for art museums, concerts, art shows and more...but Johnston County has much to offer too!  There are three performing arts auditoriums with regular season shows, The Clayton Center, the Paul A. Johnston Auditorium and the W.J. Barefoot Auditorium.  Visitors will find local talent providing theatre productions to national acts touring the country.  Dinner and the theatre in our neck of the woods is very affordable compared to prices in the Triangle -- and just as much fun!  Check out the event calendar on our website for the most up to date concerts and art show schedules.

For a touch of Hollywood, visitors that love the Golden Age will enjoy a day visit to the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield which houses a vast collection of movie memorabilia on local girl, Ava Gardner.  Walk the streets of this historic downtown, enjoy lunch at an area restaurant, walk along the Buffalo Creek Greenway.  Check out what's happening at the museum, www.avagardner.org

For the details on times, themes, and contacts for several Day Trip Ideas for Johnston County, CLICK HERE.  Check our events calendar often for something new to do in Johnston County!







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The Hottest Tickets In Town Go On Sale Monday At The Clayton Center

The Hottest Tickets In Town Go On Sale Monday At The Clayton Center

Audiences To Enjoy Fun Favorites and Welcome New Faces to Local Stage

Single tickets to performances in The Clayton Center’s 2014-15 performing arts season go on sale Monday, Aug. 25, at 10 am.  The Palladian Series opens on Friday, Oct. 17, with the irreverent and irrepressible political satire of The Capitol Steps. A Clayton favorite, the Capitol Steps return with their newest production How To Succeed In Congress Without Really Lying. Tickets are $35.

Groucho MarxOn Saturday, Nov. 1, The Clayton Center presents An Evening With Groucho, featuring award-winning actor, director and playwright Frank Ferrante. Ferrante recreates his PBS, New York and London acclaimed portrayal of legendary comedian Groucho Marx in this fast paced 90 minutes of hilarity. Tickets are $25.

The Palladian Series continues on Saturday, Dec. 6, with Riders In The Sky, and Friday, Jan. 23, 2015, with the Grande Dame of storytelling, Jeanne Robertson. Tickets are $28 and $30, respectively.

The Center heads into spring of 2015 with Yesterday & Today: The Interactive Beatles’ Experience on Friday, March 20.  Tickets to this all-request concert are $25. The final show of the Palladian Series features the music of Jeremy Davis & The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra on Saturday, April 11. Tickets for this show are $30.

The Clayton Center also will present native sons The Malpass Brothers, who hail from Goldsboro, NC, in a special event on Saturday, Feb. 7. Fans can see these incredibly talented musicians for just $20 per ticket.

Information on purchasing tickets

All events presented by The Clayton Center begin at 8 pm. For ticket prices and for more information on these shows, contact the Clayton Center box office by phone at 919-553-1737, or visit theclaytoncenter.com online. The Clayton Center is located at 111 E. Second St. in historic downtown Clayton. Box office hours are 10 am until noon and from 1 until 5 pm Monday through Friday.

Other popular artists presented in past seasons at The Clayton Center include Kathy Mattea, Dianne Reeves, Ricky Skaggs, Johnny Winter, Jesse Cook, Doc Watson, Eileen Ivers, Tommy Emmanuel, Colin Hay, the Harlem Gospel Choir and David Sedaris.

Jean Robertson video -- she is so funny....please don't miss her at The Clayton Center.


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Meet Project Runway's Designer Justin LeBlanc at the Ava Gardner Festival Oct. 4th

Ava Gardner Museum celebrates Ava as a fashion icon with new exhibits and special guest Justin LeBlanc.

Each year the Ava Gardner Museum celebrates the opening of the permanent home for the museum in Downtown Smithfield.  This year’s festival will showcase new exhibits on the legacy of Ava Gardner's fashion style with the opening of the "Ava's Closet" exhibit with music, films, fashion, food and local designer, Justin LeBlanc.   To connect to the fashion industry in North Carolina, festival organizers invited Project Runway's Justin LeBlanc to attend the event.  Justin will be at the festival Saturday, October 4, from 9-11am to host a talk on his signature 3D printing process for fabrics and to discuss his fashion line with visitors to the museum.

 “We are thrill to have Justin LeBlanc visit this year's festival, we are big fans of his work," said Deanna Brandenberger, Museum Director, “Ava's popularity and influence on today's designers like Justin remains strong and we wanted to contrast modern design with the Golden Age of Hollywood's designs worn by Ava.  It was clear he was well-liked as a contestant on Project Runway, and we feel visitors will enjoy meeting him."

Justin LeBlanc DesignJustin’s 2014 Spring/Summer collection shown in New York was entitled “Sound Waves.” It reflected his journey from deafness, represented by pure and simple white garments, to the chaos of sound, represented by garments accentuated with depictions of sound waves, random splashes of white, and elaborate 3-D printed belts, to his ultimate reconciliation with sound, dramatically depicted by a Gown made from Pipette Tips that sounded like rain as the model walked.  Justin will be bringing this piece to the museum and visitors will have a chance to see this gown and learn more about the process of constructing this one-of-a-kind design.

Justin has a degree in Architecture from North Carolina State University where he was a Caldwell Fellow. Towards the end of his architecture studies Justin developed his passion for fashion design during his participation in NCSU’s annual Art2Wear competition.  Following his graduation from NCSU Justin attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he received a Master of Design in Fashion, Body, and Garment in 2012. While a student at the Art Institute, Mr. LeBlanc interned in London at Alexander McQueen’s fashion studio. He was mentored by Nick Cave, a design professor at the Art Institute and a celebrated fabric sculptor.  Justin currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina where he is an assistant professor at North Carolina State University in the College of Design.  Justin also is actively involved in fashion design and he is a frequent guest speaker and volunteers his time for various charitable causes. 

To make the weekend's event a complete package individuals may purchase passes to all events for $75.00 which includes the Friday night Fashion Fling reception, admission to the museum Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Saturday night Clayton Piano Festival and one heritage tour on Saturday.  Advanced reservations required by September 26 to schedule the package. 

For more information about the festival and to purchase the "Ava's Closet" Festival Package, please call the museum at 919-934-5830.  The Ava Gardner Museum is located in downtown Smithfield, at 325 E. Market Street and more information may be found on the museum website, www.avagardner.org.  The museum is open Monday-Saturday, 9am-5pm and Sunday 2pm-5pm with admission of $8.00 adults, $7.00 seniors and groups and $6.00 children.

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Wine Trail Expands in Johnston County

Wine Trail Expands in Johnston County

After three years and over 1,000 people completing the Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau has expanded the trail to include two new breweries and a distillery in the county.  In 2013, Deep River Brewing and Double Barley Brewing opened in Clayton and Smithfield as the first craft beer brewing companies in the county.  Also in 2013, Gregory Vineyards began distilling moonshine to blend into their wines creating a fortified brandy, which is available for tasting in their winery.

 "With the new breweries and "legal" shine now available in Johnston County, we wanted to expand the trail with these new experiences and tastings," stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director, "the new trail has more relaxed requirements and visitors will receive coupons worth $30.00 to use on return trips to the winery or brewery they loved best."

Muscadine GrapesVisitors along the trail need only receive a stamp on their visit and are not required to purchase product as required before on the Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail.  The wineries and breweries agreed that the main intent of the trail is to give the visitor a good experience, and gain a customer for the long term.  After collecting six stamps, visitors will receive a 4 x 9 rack card with $5.00 coupons good at each location on the trail.  Participating venues are Adams Winery, Enoch Winery, Deep River Brewing, Double Barley Brewing, Hinnants Winery and Gregory Winery.  Also listed on the trail for pick-your-own muscadine grapes is Myrick Vineyards near Selma, who has plans to open a winery in 2015.

Brochures promoting the Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail are available at area attractions, NC Welcome Centers and may be downloaded on the new website, www.beerwineshinetrail.com.  "We encourage visitors to check back often to see what events are being planned at the wineries which host grape stomps, art and wine events, murder mystery dinners and pick-your-own grape seasons.  The breweries also have special events, live music, food trucks, corn hole tournaments and more.

Wine and craft beer enthusiasts can join our Trail Email list for announcements of special events and news from the members of the trail, and enter to win a FREE custom designed Mason Jar.  Drawings are held monthly and winners will receive the prize by mail.

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Clayton Piano Festival to Capture the Magic of Classical Music

Clayton Piano Festival to Capture the Magic of Classical Music

Ava Singing in Show BoatThe 4th Annual Clayton Piano Festival is scheduled for September 29 - October 10 at The Clayton Center Auditorium in Historic Downtown Clayton in addition to workshops held in area schools.  This year's festival will kick-off with a collaboration with the Ava Gardner Festival featuring iconic classical music from the movies including a segment on another local star, Ava Gardner.  Three more themed performances will be billed as; The inspiration of the church on western music, A celebration of women composers, which will be at The Wagner House and Classical music with a popular twist.

Home-town classical musician, Jonathan Levin began the festival in 2010 to give back to the community where he was raised, and in the venue where at age eight he performed his first recital.  "As many may know, I grew up in the Clayton area and it was here that my musical education began as well.  Clayton Piano Festival (CPF) is my way of giving back to a community which gave much to me and to share my love and enthusiasm for great music with as many people as possible," stated Jonathan Levin, founder of the festival. "Live performance is a vital part of this art form – when a performer is up there on stage tapping in to whatever wizardry the composer may have conjured up and the audience is able to relate and connect with that, there is a shared experience that occurs which is nothing short of magical.  And that is the mission of CPF – to create magic!"

On Saturday, October 4th, emcee Bryan Mims, WRAL news reporter, will lead the conversation about the piano pieces beginning at 7pm.  Following the concert there will be a coffee and dessert reception to meet the artist Azamat Sydykov.  This concert collaboration between the Clayton Piano Festival and the Ava Gardner Museum will interest fans and visitors coming to the Ava Gardner Festival which runs the entire weekend.  Fans of movies and fans of Ava's can enjoy a touch of artistry from her life.  During the hour long performance, the interlude featuring Ava Gardner will showcase songs from Show Boat and Ava's live-long fascination with flamenco music.  Tickets for the Saturday night concert are $20.00+ taxes and fees, and are available for purchase online at www.theclaytoncenter.com or by calling the Clayton Center Box Office, 919-553-3152.

Clayton Piano FestivalAzamat Sydakov, who recently performed at Carnegie Hall will be the featured pianist on Saturday, October 4th.  Sydykov was born into a musical family in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyz Republic, a former Republic of the Soviet Union and now resides in Kazakhstan.  A Member of the International Academy of Creative Endeavors (Moscow, 2009),  Sydykov has been the recipient of many awards and prizes including First Prize in five national music competitions in Kyrgyz Republic, First Prize at the “Musician of the 21st Century” International Piano Competition in Kazakhstan and the Grand Prize at the “EUTERPE” International Piano Competition in Italy in 2009.

It is the mission of CPF to bring outstanding concert pianists from throughout the country to the Clayton area in order to perform concerts and participate in other musically enriching events throughout the community. Through interactive presentations in local schools, public classes for local piano students, and commentary with the concert performances, CPF aims to bridge the gap between performer and audience, bringing great music to people of all ages and levels of exposure to classical music and the arts.

The Clayton Piano Festival list of performances and seminars, times and ticket info:

Sept. 29 – Oct. 3                 Educational Outreach Performances at local elementary schools.
Oct. 4                                 "Movie Tunes: Iconic classical music from the movies." - The Clayton Center,  Azamat Sydykov, 7pm. Tickets $20
Oct. 5                                 "Sanctuary: the inspiration of the church on western music."  -  The Clayton Center, Jonathan Levin, 3pm. Tickets $12/$8
Oct. 7                                 "In Her Shoes: A celebration of women composers." - The Wagner House, Clayton,  Julia Mortyakova, 7pm.  Tickets $20
Oct. 8-10                            Young Artist Seminar – classes and events for local piano students. (location and Schedule TBD)                                              
Oct. 10                               "From Brooklyn to Havana: classical music with a popular twist."  The Clayton Center, Milton Laufer, 7pm. Tickets $12/$8

The Clayton Piano Festival is supported by grants, donations, and tickets sales. Concerts are general seating admission with some reserved seats for Ava Gardner Festival sponsors only on October 4.  More information can be found on their website, www.claytonpianofestival.org or Ava Gardner Festival on www.avagardner.org.

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301 Endless Yard Sale A Huge Success

301 Endless Yard Sale A Huge Success

The organizing committee of the 301 Endless Yard Sale met July 17 to gather feedback from the communities involved and to review vendor survey results.  With mostly positive feedback from all involved, the committee has set the dates of June 19-20, 2015 for next year's event.

"Overall the biggest complaint was the hot weather, obviously, something the committee cannot control and some traffic concerns, wishes for more parking, and calls to hold the event twice a year (Spring and Fall)," stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director, Johnston County Visitors Bureau.

Results of the Vendor Survey

The committee reviewed the online vendor survey results and key points noted by the committee were:

•    35% of  vendors heard about the event from WRAL, followed by 30% website, 30% Facebook, 22% by postcard/brochure, 19% by Classified Ads.  
•    76% of vendors sold on both days.  
•    Average sales were about $500 each day.  
•    Vendor fees varied from free, donations, up to $75 per day.  
•    81% of vendors found their spot because they knew the property owner.  
•    79% of vendors sold yard sale items, 48% collectibles and 38% antiques.
•    83% of vendors plan to come back next year.  
•    50% of vendors surveyed said to leave it a Friday-Saturday event.

301 Endless Yard SaleThe committee discussed the feedback from people complaining about too many commercial vendors and that they wanted just “Yard Sale” items and pricing.  The committee discussed that what the vendor sells is not regulated and there were lots of "junking" vendors, as well as, antiques and collectibles, yard sale items, and then the unique items like golf carts, boats, motorcycles, and businesses that pulled warehouses of merchandise out for sale.  "The 301 Endless Yard Sale is all about the hunt, you never know what you will come across.  It may be high end antiques or the thrifty household items, " stated event founder Tommy Abdalla. Next year the committee can include a tagline that specifies,  "you’ll find anything and everything along the 301 Endless Yard Sale".

Discussion was had about moving the event date and the committee felt this year the weekend was unusually hot for June.  If the event was moved to the spring or fall, there were many conflicts with other major festivals held in the destinations, sporting events, football weekends, and the state fair.  The committee decided there are benefits to having the consistency and agreed to keep the event the third weekend in June, which will be June 19-20.  

Overall marketing expenses and ROI

The four Visitors Bureaus involved split the cost of the brochures, classified ads, and each community purchased banners.  Halifax and Johnston placed some local ads and worked with area radio stations for promotion.  And the JCVB invested some promotional dollars on Facebook, which increased from 300 likes to 5,300 likes since last year's event.  With the promotion on WRAL, the www.301endlessyard.com again exceeded bandwidth with over  75,000 page views in June.   Each CVB averaged $1,000 to market the event.

Although hard numbers from hotels is not available on the number of room nights, each destination reported hotels saw overnight stays.  The Facebook map set up to track where vendors and visitors were coming from indicated some of the feeder states for this event were: NC, VA, SC, FL, AL, OH, PA, MA, TX, MD and CO.

Expanding the 301 Endless Yard Sale from Roanoke Rapids to Lumberton
The goal for 2015 is to expand the sale to include the counties of Nash, Cumberland and Robeson Counties.  The committee has agreed not to have gaps next year as it causes too much confusion for vendors and visitors.  Planning meetings will begin in January and will be held in Smithfield at the Johnston County Visitors Bureau conference room.  For more information and to keep connected, visit the website, www.301endlessyardsale.com or follow the event on www.facebook.com/301endlessyardsale.

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Ava Gardner Festival -- opens "Ava's Closet"

Ava Gardner Festival -- opens "Ava's Closet"

Join us in historic downtown Smithfield for the 10th Annual Ava Gardner Festival, October 3-5.  Ava went to Hollywood in 1941, a beauty from North Carolina with her college threads and saddle oxford shoes, but just a few years later she graced hundreds of magazine covers, played on-screen sirens, and was coined one of the world’s most beautiful women.

Schedule of Events for the Ava Gardner Festival

Ava Gardner FestivalFriday, October 3

Ava’s Closet Exhibit opens with a Fashion Fling reception with Sinatra-style entertainment by the Carolina Crooner, hors d’ oeuvres and beverages will provide the “fling” for the evening.  Ticket prices are $25.00 per person and the event is the museum’s annual fundraiser.

Saturday, October 4

Festival goers will enjoy the new exhibits, Heritage Tours, and FREE movie screenings of  The Killers and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean showing at 10am and 2pm respectively.  This year’s movies are a tribute to John Huston, Ava’s dear friend and famed director. All day admission is $8 for all ages.

Justin LeBlancMeet special guest, Justin LeBlanc, season 12 Project Runway finalist and local designer from Raleigh who will speak about 3D print design and fashion with visitors to the museum.  Justin will be at the museum Saturday, Oct. 4 from 9-11am.

Heritage tours on Saturday October 4th will be held throughout the day beginning at 9am, 11:30am, 1:30pm, and 3:30pm. The guided tour will take visitors to Ava’s birthplace, to the Brogden Teacherage where she grew up, and to her gravesite at Sunset Memorial Park. Tours are $15.00 per person.


Clayton Piano FestivalOn Saturday, Oct. 4, the museum has partnered with the Clayton Piano Festival whose theme this year is classical music from the movies. The festival organizers are working with renowned artist and Clayton native, Jonathan Levin to pay tribute to Ava Gardner with a song from Show Boat and a selection of other musical influenced by Ava's love of flamenco music. The festival will be held at The Clayton Center and begins at 7pm. Coffee and desserts will be served after the concert with a meet and greet with Azamat Sydakov, the featured pianist. Tickets are $20.00 per person plus fees/taxes and are available online at www.theclaytoncenter.com.

 Sunday, October 5

Another tribute to John Huston, The African Queen will run on Sunday at 3pm.

Get a deal with the Ava's Closet Festival Package

Ava Gardner Festival Package includes admission to all events for the weekend, and is available for $75.00 online, CLICK HERE to purchase.

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Clayton River Walk: A little bit country, a little bit art

Clayton River Walk: A little bit country, a little bit art

Living in Johnston County means we have ample opportunity to explore the great outdoors. Whether playing at a local park, kayaking on the river, or reliving history at Bentonville Battlegrounds, we've certainly got options. Our favorite outdoor adventure, though, is the Clayton River Walk on the Neuse. The trail is part of the Mountain-to-Sea trail of North Carolina, and because it's paved, everyone can enjoy it. 

Sam's Branch Greenway at the Clayton River Walk

Connected to the River Walk is Sam's Branch Greenway, which is equally maintained. Sam's Branch Greenway is 1.25 miles long (2.5 miles round trip), providing a 10-foot-wide paved trail, a butterfly art project and an accessible picnic area. We like Sam's Branch Greenway because of its gently rolling pathway -- bikes can soar down the "hill" but it's not too long to pedal up in the opposite direction. We also like the ever-changing landscape from season to season. Of course, it's at its best in October when trees display gold and red foliage, the field grasses wave a toasty brown and the grass is still green.

Nature and art come together at the Clayton River Walk

Beyond the natural beauty of this country trail along the Neuse, the public art display along the bridge by the butterfly park offers changing exhibits throughout the year. We ventured out early one morning this week (trying to beat the heat), to see the newest display, just installed in May. The new installation, Whimsical Birds, is sponsored in part by a grant from the Johnston County Arts Council to promote art projects on the trail. This art was created by local students from Clayton High School, Clayton Middle School, Cooper and Powhatan Elementary Schools. 

When we rounded a bend in the trail to reveal the bridge, my daughter instantly responded with a loud, "Oooooh!" as she ran ahead to look at all the birds on the bridge. My son, the dog and I (we will blame the heat), took a bit longer to arrive at the bridge. Still, broad smiles spread across our faces as we took in the colorful display. 


Clayton River Walk: Know before you go

 Three parking areas offer easy access to the Clayton River Walk:

  • 2928 Horseshoe Farm Road (2928 Horseshoe Farm Road)
  • Buffaloe Road Athletic Park (5812 Buffaloe Road)
  • Anderson Point Park (20 Anderson Point Drive)

The address to park at Sam's Branch Greenway trailhead (about 1 mile from the butterfly and art exhibit) is 1358 N. O'Neil Street, Clayton, NC. 

Drinking fountains and restrooms are available at the Buffaloe Road Athletic Park and Anderson Point Park. Doggie bags and garbage cans are located along the trail for the benefit of all guests.

 Please note:

  • Pets must be leashed
  • No motorized vehicles are allowed
  • Bicyclists are welcome!
  • Bring water bottles and sunscreen
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes!





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Blueberries and Summer Fun

In terms of U.S. fruit consumption, blueberries rank only second to strawberries in popularity. Blueberries are repeatedly ranked in the U.S. diet as having one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits, vegetables, spices and seasonings. And they taste so good in our recipes!

History of Blueberries

Blueberries hold a special place in the foods of North America, since more species of blueberries are native to North America than any other continent. To this day, the United States cultivates and supplies over half of all blueberries in the world. Among the 275 million pounds of blueberries grown in the U.S., Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, and North Carolina are states most heavily involved in blueberry farming. Because of its special interest in lowbush blueberries, the state of Maine is actually the largest lowbush blueberry producer in the world.

How to Select and Store Berries

Choose blueberries that are firm and have a lively, uniform hue colored with a whitish bloom. Shake the container, noticing whether the berries have the tendency to move freely; if they do not, this may indicate that they are soft and damaged or moldy. Avoid berries that appear dull in color or are soft and watery in texture.  

Before storing remove any crushed or moldy berries to prevent the rest from spoiling. Don't wash berries until right before eating as washing will remove the bloom that protects the berries' skins from degradation. Store ripe blueberries in a covered container in the refrigerator where they will keep for up to 3 days. If kept out at room temperature for more than a day, the berries may spoil.

Ripe berries can also be frozen, although this will slightly change their texture and flavor. Before freezing, wash, drain and remove any damaged berries. To better ensure uniform texture upon thawing, spread the berries out on a cookie sheet or baking pan, place in the freezer until frozen, then put the berries in a plastic bag for storage in the freezer.

Where to find blueberries in Johnston County at markets or pick-your-own farms:

Creekside Farm
300 Pine Tree Road, Selma

Smith's Nursery
443 Sanders Rd., Benson

L & G Farms
6536 Meadowbrook Rd., Benson

Thompson Orchards
4301 US Hwy 701 S., Four Oaks

Lee's Produce
401 W. Main St., Clayton

Clayton Farm and Community Market
439 E. Main St., Clayton


Blueberry Cobbler


    1 bag (1 pound) frozen blueberries (about 3- ½ cups)
    1 tablespoon cornstarch
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    ¾ cup turbinado (raw) sugar or granulated sugar, divided
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    ¼ teaspoon salt
    ½ cup milk
    3 tablespoons butter, melted
    ¾ cup boiling water


    Preheat oven to 350°F
    Spread blueberries in ungreased 8 or 9-inch square baking dish or pan
    Sprinkle with cornstarch
    Drizzle with lemon juice
    Set aside
    In medium bowl combine flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder and salt
    Add milk and butter
    Stir just until combined (not smooth)
    Drop mounds of dough onto blueberries
    Pour boiling water over dough and fruit
    Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup sugar
    Bake until biscuits are golden brown and blueberries are bubbly, 45 to 50 minutes
    Serve warm or at room temperature

Number of servings (yield): 8

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Chick-Fil-A 3 Little Pigs Triathlon - A Big Draw to Smithfield

We have heard from visitors that traveled to Smithfield to run in the 3 Little Pigs Triathlon, traveling here from all over the state and beyond -- "We just had to see what a "3 Little Pigs" race was all about".  Sometimes in event planning....the name is the most important thing of all.

The Chick-Fil-A 3 Little Pigs Triathlon will be held in Smithfield, on Saturday, June 14, 2014. The event will begin at 7:30am and include a 250-yard pool swim, 14-mile bike race, and 3.1 mile run.  The event will begin at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center (SRAC) at 600 Booker Dairy Road. The swim will take place at the SRAC pool; the bike course will be from the SRAC parking lot into rural Johnston County on a scenic but mostly flat course; and the run course is an out-and-back course around Smithfield’s community park, and down and back on the new Buffalo Creek Greenway which runs along the Neuse River.

Family activities will also be available including the SRAC splash pool, a misting tent, face painting and the playground at the finish line.  Chick-Fil-A of Smithfield is the title sponsor for the event and proceeds will benefit the Friends of the Park and The Rotary Club of Central Johnston County.

Organizers are excited about the response for the 3 Little Pigs Triathlon as they expect more than 500 participants.  The event is family oriented providing activities for children at the Aquatic Center as family members complete the race.  Last year over $17,000 was raised and funds go directly back into the community through Friends of the Park and the Rotary Club of Central Johnston County. It’s a great time for the participants and their families.  Participants receive a t-shirt and a Chick-Fil-A chicken wrap as part of the event.

Registration information may be found here:

    • The last day to register online for the 3 Little Pigs Sprint Triathlon is Tuesday, June 10, 2014. On-site registration may be available if this event is not full, but your best bet is to register online.
    • Until May 4, cost is $45 for individuals; $80 for relays.




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100 Mile Yard Sale with 500+ Vendors

Tobacco Basket for SaleLess than 30 days from now on June 20th, the 301 Endless Yard Sale (100-miles) will open and will become the largest yard sale in North Carolina history. What started as an idea from retailer Tommy Abdalla and Selma Mayor Cheryl Oliver has morphed into a multi-county event that grows every day.  New vendor locations are added each day and families, churches and non-profits join in the excitement to host this event.

Patterned after several existing yard sales, like the World's Longest Yard Sale held in August each year running from Michigan to Alabama along highway 127, we have goals for our sale to expand to the state's borders within the next two years.  We have since discovered more than ten sales that join communities together with this favorite pass-time -- yard-sales or junking!  One of our favorite names of area sales is the Peaches to the Beaches Yard Sale down in Georgia...the name alone is just fun!  It's not a new idea and we didn't "invent" this wheel, we are just riding the wave with thousands of yard sale enthusiasts.

Planning is the key!

Our 301 Endless Yard Sale planning committee has been meeting since January with representatives from Roanoke Rapids, Wilson, Johnston County towns along US 301 and Dunn.  Each month we find more and more businesses that want to be a part of the event, restaurants are gearing up for massive sales, and hotels are offering special rates for visitors traveling here to either bring  their treasures for sale....or treasure hunters headed here to see if they can do the entire 100-mile stretch.  Brochures have been distributed, classified ads are running, banners have been printed -- everything is moving towards a huge turn out!

We have had inquiries from the media -- just how many vendors will you have along US HWY 301?  How many people attended last year -- and how many do you expect this year?  Great questions.

Last year just in Johnston County, we estimated more than 150 vendors and the number of participants was in the 1000s.  The highway was literally bumper to bumper for two days.  So this year we are encouraging more parking at vendor locations to move vehicles off the highway and are letting local law enforcement/EMS and service businesses to route their deliveries along I-95 and not US Highway 301.

Survey for vendor and visitor feedback

With four counties and 100 miles of yard sale -- this year we estimate 500+ vendors and many other family yard sales setting up on their own.  As far as the number of yard sale shoppers we hope for four times the numbers from last year, so expect 20,000 shoppers to be along the highway from Roanoke Rapids to Dunn.  This year, we will be conducting surveys with our vendors and for visitor feedback to learn more information like:

    • How far did you travel to the sale?  City, State demographic information.
    • Expenditure and sales information.
    • Did you stay in a local hotel, campground, or stay with friends and family?
    • What would you suggest to the organizers of the event to make it better?

Look for some fun social media contests during the event with Facebook posts for the best "buy" during the Yard Sale, with prizes from the destinations for winners.  This event is coordinated by the local Convention & Visitors Bureaus in Halifax, Wilson, Johnston and Harnett Counties with several town officials to provide services like signage, vendor coordination, and special event permits.

A special thanks to everyone that makes this event happen -- just a few more weeks to go!!!!



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Trent Lassiter- JoCo's Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

Trent Lassiter, who is widely known in Johnston County as the general manager of Springhill Outfitters, has built the county’s largest banquet hall and entertainment complex on his family's farmland near Selma. Trent is a 2009 graduate of Mt. Olive University, which recently presented him with the Young Alumnus Achievement Award for his exceptional business achievements. The Farm is a one-of-a-kind venue located on approximately 10 acres on Batten Road just off I-95 Exit 101 beside Springhill Outfitters.

Trent had the idea for this building after hosting the Farm Fest concert in 2012, as he needed a facility that would provide space for bands, staging, and for indoor events as well.  He also knew of other needs for a large meeting space in the county. As a member of Duck's Unlimited, their annual dinner needs space for 400+ people so he made sure the facility could accommodate a crowd that large.  Trent also saw a need for a facility for weddings in the county, and the banquet space was built with a dance area in the middle of the floor with that in mind.  Overall, the building is 10,000 square-feet and can be utilized for multiple types of events like weddings, banquets, concerts (indoor and outdoor), birthday parties, and business seminars and retreats.  One of the more unique features is the patio space with a fire pit and outdoor lights.

The outside portion of The Farm can handle up to 5,000 people for concerts and has ample space for exhibitions/shows which will also bring people to the county. Construction of The Farm was completed in October 2013 and this year's concert series will begin on May 31st with one of Trent's friends, Scotty McCreery, American Idol Winner taking the stage with Eric Paslay, Blake Kearney Band and special guests Sadie and John Luke Robertson from Duck Dynasty on A&E.

“There is nothing like this anywhere in the county,” he said. “I think people are really going to like it.”

Trent has had the idea for The Farm for several years, but seriously decided to make it happen for two reasons; he said he has always had a love of the concert-type entertainment industry, and really believes that The Farm is something that will be good for the county. He hopes visitors will stay in local hotels, eat out, shop and come back to visit another time.

We agree Trent, and we thank you for having the vision and dedication to make it happen!

Needing a Meeting Facility? For booking information at The Farm please contact Anna Evans, the venue manager, at 919-750-5464 or visit thefarmnc.com.



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National Travel and Tourism Week

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Food Takes Center Stage at 30th Annual Ham & Yam Festival

countryham+biscuitOne big change is coming to the 2014 Ham & Yam Festival, scheduled for May 2 and 3 as food will take center stage.  In an effort to return to the agricultural roots of the festival, all food vendors will offer an item that features either country ham or yams.

“For the 30th annual Ham & Yam Festival, we wanted to return to the roots of the festival, and celebrate the fact that ham and sweet potato producers are still thriving here in Johnston County,” states Sarah Edwards, festival organizer and Interim Director of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation.

In addition to the Kiwanis Club’s ever popular Stevens Sausage country ham biscuits, food vendors will offer sweet potato funnel cakes, sweet potato pie, sweet potato ice cream, sweet potato desserts, sweet potato fries, sweet potato chips, sweet potato smoothies, sweet potato muffins, and baked sweet potatoes.

The Kiwanis Club’s annual Ham & Yam supper, scheduled for Tuesday, April 29, will feature Stevens Sausage country ham, yams, cabbage, and corn bread.  The supper is from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at Centenary United Methodist Church, located at 140 E. Market Street in Downtown Smithfield; tickets are $7.00, and will be available at the door.

In addition to the food, a full schedule of events on Friday, May 2 and Saturday, May 3 will attract more than 25,000 thousand people to Downtown Smithfield, where the festival occupies several blocks.  Craft and commercial vendors line the streets, local entertainers perform on two stages, and there are activities for the entire family.  The festival features free concerts on Friday and Saturday nights; The Breakfast Club, America’s favorite 80s tribute band will take the stage at 8:00 p.m. on Friday after Girlz Girlz Girlz opens at 6:00 p.m.  Neon Radio will open the free Saturday night concert at 6:00 p.m., with Who’s Bad: the Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Band taking the stage at 8:00 p.m.

The Ham & Yam Festival is organized by the nonprofit Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation.  To learn more about the Ham & Yam Festival, please visit www.hamandyam.com, or call Sarah Edwards at 919-934-0887.

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Strawberry Picking -- a Fun Family Outing

Rows of ripe strawberries are waiting at Smith's Nursery, located in the McGee's Crossroads Community. Rows of ripe strawberries are waiting at Smith's Nursery, located in the McGee's Crossroads Community.

Strawberries are one of nature's perfect and sweet fruits that can be used in many different recipes that will surely delight your family.  If you are looking to get out of the house after winter is finally gone and spring is here to stay, a visit to a local strawberry farm is a great idea. Let the kids head up a row of strawberry plants with a bucket and they can pick and eat as they go (a little dirt won't hurt them!).  Johnston County has several local farmer's offering pick-your-own or pre-picked berries, so if you are in a hurry...just drop by and load up.  Find the tasty fruit at Smith's Nursery and Strawberry Farm, Beasley's Berries, 701 Farm Market, and the Clayton Farm and Community Market. For more things to do this spring on local farms, visit www.johnstoncountync.org/agritourism.

History of the Strawberry

The name Strawberry was derived from the berries that are "strewn" about on the plants, and "strewn berry" eventually became "Strawberry".  They really are not berries or fruit at all, but enlarged ends of the plant's stamen. Strawberry seeds are on the outer skin, instead of in the inner berry, and there are about 200 seeds per berry.

The berries are non-fat and low in calories, rich in vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, fiber, and vitamin B6. Over history the strawberries have been used in medicines, for sunburn, discolored teeth, digestion, and gout. As far back as the 13th century, the Strawberry was used as an aphrodisiac.  American Indians allegedly invented Strawberry shortcake, mashing berries in meal to make bread the colonists enjoyed--but they must have used wild strawberries since strawberries have been cultivated in America only since 1835. The Hoveg variety was imported into Massachusetts from France in 1834.

For a variety of strawberry recipes, stay tuned in to our FACEBOOK posts this May like this popular Strawberry Pie (which went viral last year on FB):

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Ham and Yam Festival Throws Back to the 80s

2014 Ham and Yam Logo Even our logo for 2014 has some 80's style - sunglasses and punk hair!

The Ham and Yam Festival began in 1985 as a challenge from Johnston County ham producers to the ham producers of Smithfield, Virginia.  No longer is there a competition between ham producers, but a weekend of great food, fun, and music.  Johnston County is recognized as a top producer of North Carolina's sweet potato crop, so it is fitting for the festival to honor the agricultural heritage of the area...and ham and yams go so good together!!

What started as a food festival has expanded to offer a barbecue cook-off attracting great cooks from throughout the area to compete for cash prizes. Attendees will also find many varieties of hams and yams at the festival – barbecue plates from the cook-off, country ham biscuits, sweet potato fries, funnel cakes, ice cream, and desserts. YUM!

The festival hosts the “What’s That Yam Thing?” contest, a favorite for school-aged children given the opportunity to turn sweet potatoes into works of art. Visitors wander through the festival area filled with hundreds of booths occupied by face painters, local non-profit organizations, and vendors selling items including garden flags, handbags, pottery, handmade jewelry and many other arts and crafts. The family event keeps crowds entertained with performances on three stages, children’s games, carnival rides, and the very popular pig races.

We’re throwing back to the 80s... at the 2014 Ham & Yam Festival!

Face painting at the Ham & Yam FesitvalFor the 30th Annual Ham & Yam Festival, we’re returning to our roots and celebrating hams, yams, and the 1980s. For the first time ever, all food vendors will offer an item featuring country ham or yams. In addition to the food, attendees will be treated to entertainment, activities, and vendors lining the streets on Saturday. Free concerts will be held at 8:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights at the Stevens Sausage Pavilion at the Neuse River Amphitheater. The Breakfast Club will bring real hair, real 1980s clothes, real vocals, and real musical talent when they take us back on May 2. The audience will be singing, dancing, and moonwalking along when the festival closes May 3 with an 8:00 concert featuring Who’s Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Band.

Learn more at www.hamandyam.com or call 919-934-0887 and follow on FACEBOOK.

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Beer Wine & Shine Trail

beer wine and shine trail logo

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.


Meeting Planners

meeting venue with presentation screen

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?


Group Tour Operators

girl with camera in travel group

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.


Hotel Packages

hotel bed and pillow with johnston county logo

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.


hospitality heroes logo



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