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

Fall into Festivals in Johnston County

It's the end of the summer travel season and all the wonderful fresh farm foods are canned or frozen, kids are back in school, and we begin to look forward to football weekends and  Fall festivals.  Traditional post summer activities are about celebrating the farm harvest time...pecans, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins are the fall staples and throughout Johnston County our communities strike up the bands, set up the fair-like booths and invite friends, family and visitors to have some fun.

We invite you to mark your calendars for some of our most popular and attended festivals this fall...see you at the dunking booth!

Harvest Festival, Sept. 18-22,2013 Harvest Festival, Sept. 18-22,2013

Join downtown Clayton September 18-22 for its biggest festival of the year, the Clayton Harvest & Music Festival. This Town of Clayton time-honored tradition spans over the course of five days and includes something for everyone, including a Clayton Idol competition, carnival rides, and a variety of concerts. This festival, which draws approximately 30,000 people, is full of family fun and activities for everyone young and old. The weekend is packed with games, arts and crafts, over 200 vendors, dancing, and music.

For a complete schedule of events or more information on the Clayton Harvest & Music Festival including vendor and entertainment information, visit www.claytonchamber.com or call the Clayton Chamber of Commerce at (919) 553-6352.


Kids Having Fun at Mule Days! Kids Having Fun at Mule Days!

The town of Benson, North Carolina celebrates Benson Mule Days® September 26-29.  This festival is considered one of the largest festivals in North Carolina and will kickoff with a Barrel Exhibition and Open Barrel Race Thursday night.

This festival, which draws approximately 50,000 people, is full of family fun and activities for everyone young and old. The weekend is packed with rodeos, a mule pulling contest, arts and crafts, vendors, street dances, carnival rides, camping, parades, bluegrass shows and more. The parade takes place Saturday, September 28 at 10am. The parade will feature bands, floats, antique tractors and hundreds of horses, mules, and buggies. Visitors come from as far away as Alaska, Germany and California.

For a complete schedule of events or more information on Benson Mule Days®, including vendor, golf, and camping information, visit www.bensonmuledays.com, or call the Benson Area Chamber of Commerce at (919) 894-3825.




Ava Gardner stars with Richard Burton in "The Night of the Iguana"



Ava Gardner stars with Richard Burton in The Night of the Iguana

The Ava Gardner Museum will commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Night of the Iguana at its 2013 Ava Gardner Festival, October 4-6.

Highlights include a "Mad About Ava" Cocktail Party on Friday, October 4. There will be specialty drinks at nearby wineries, breweries and area restaurants, where visitors can show off their 60s costume to win cash prizes. The museum will have new exhibits related to the film, specialty drinks and hors d'oeuvres, door prizes and a raffle for a three-night, all-inclusive trip for two to the Vamar Vallarta Marina and Beach Resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

On Saturday, the museum will be open for tours of the new exhibits, heritage tours to Ava's birthplace, the teacherage and other points of interest along the Ava Gardner Heritage Trail, and there will be free showings of The Night of the Iguana in the museum's theatre.  For tickets and info visit www.avagardner.org or all the museum, 919-934-5830.

Family fun in Selma for a train ride! Family fun in Selma for a train ride!

The Town of Selma has a full slate of activities planned for the 38th Annual Selma Railroad Days, October 4-5. Saturday, October 5th will again be the full day of activities for the entire family to enjoy beginning at 8am with the Railroad 5K Run and the Caboose Run.  The day’s events include the Parade at 10am featuring Miss North Carolina Johna Edmonds, the Selma Cornhole Classic at 11am, and the East Coast Muscle Car Club Display at 11am. All day activities include arts, crafts, food vendors, Children’s Crossing inflatable and games, Model Train Displays and music on three stages.  Check their website for more details, www.selma-nc.com or call 919-975-1411.

We invite you to join our email list for our Calendar of Events blast -- we send out just one a month to those friends, family, and visitors looking for fun things to do.  It's easy to sign up and we won't re-blast you with information you didn't want or share our list with anyone else!  We promise -- sign up and don't miss out on a Fun Fall Festival!

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John Huston Stuck By Ava Gardner—His Choice for “Maxine Faulk”

Ava Gardner John Huston stayed with his first choice actress, Ava Gardner to star in "The Night of the Iguana"

In 1963 Ava Gardner was happy living in Madrid, away from Hollywood where paparazzi would not leave her alone. But film director John Huston convinced her to leave Spain to play Maxine Faulk in Tennessee Williams’ The Night of the Iguana in spite of the playwright’s objections.  Williams thought Ava was too beautiful for the part and wanted to cast a “beaten up old dame” like Bette Davis, who played Maxine on Broadway. Huston replied, “Ava Gardner is a Tar Heel from North Carolina, someone that sticks to his position in the battle line…. Ava can belt it out.… You’ll see a very fine actress at work.”

“Many critics consider Ava’s role as Maxine to be one of her finest performances,” states Todd Johnson, Director of the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, NC. Ava was nominated for a Golden Globe for this role and went on to win two international awards, the Best Foreign Actress Film Award (BAFTA) and Best Actress at the San Sebastian Film Festival.

This year’s Ava Gardner Festival, October 4-6, will showcase this highly publicized film project, which took place in the little known town of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  Ava would dub the location, “Hollywood on the Rocks.”  Director John Huston wanted actors to truly experience the hardships portrayed in the film by insisting they be on set for the entire production, living together under harsh conditions.  Publicity intensified with the presence of Elizabeth Taylor, who was making international news concerning rumors of her marriage to cast member Richard Burton.

Festival visitors can enjoy new exhibits, a Heritage Tour, and a FREE movie screening.  Heritage tours on Saturday, October 5th will be held throughout the day beginning at 9am. 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. All-day admission to the Ava Gardner Museum is $7, and heritage tour tickets are $13. In addition, the museum plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the filming of The Night of the Iguana  by showing the movie on Saturday, October 5th, and Sunday afternoon, October 6th, in the museum’s theatre.

Several area hotels in Smithfield have partnered with the museum in offering an “Ava Festival Package” that includes discounted room rates and a gift bag from the Johnston County Visitors Bureau. For more information on hotel accommodations, visit the website: www.visitsmithfield.org

This year’s festival is presented by Smithfield’s Chicken N’ BBQ, a popular restaurant chain which started out in Smithfield in 1964. The restaurant’s owners have a love for vintage movies, and each of the 33 restaurants has an Ava Gardner photo wall as a tribute to Smithfield’s native daughter.

The Ava Gardner Museum is located in downtown Smithfield at 325 E. Market Street. Information on these events and advance ticket purchases is available on the museum website, www.avagardner.org or by calling 919-934-5830.  The museum is open Monday-Saturday, 9-5pm and Sunday 2pm-5pm. There will be extended hours during the Festival: Saturday, 9am-6pm, and Sunday, 1-6pm.



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Logging Expo Returns to Cox Farm

Cox Farm located just outside Selma, site for the 2013 Logging Expo. Cox Farm located just outside Selma, site for the 2013 Logging Expo.

Two year's ago the Mid-Atlantic Logging & Biomass Expo event was held on a local farm just outside Selma known as the Cox Farm, owned by Smithfield lawyer Allen Wellons.  The event returns to the area and again expects to draw huge crowds to attend on  September 20-21.

The very popular, Swamp Logger family and crew as seen on The Discovery Channel will be on hand at this year's show.  Visitors will find them between Tigercat and the pond.

Ticket Info:

Bring the entire family for the Expo and visit local attractions. Two-day pass is $15 per adult when you register online or $20 per adult at the gate. Children 16 and under are FREE. No ATVs or golf carts please. Handicapped or disabled person transport arranged at main tent registration when you arrive.

About the Event

The Mid-Atlantic Logging & Biomass Expo has emerged as the region’s signature event for the forest industry’s wood fiber supply chain.  Up to 4,000 loggers, foresters, truckers, landowners, machinery manufacturers-dealers and service providers are expected to participate.

The setting for the 2013 expo will be aesthetically unique, given the central location of an abandoned farm house and pond. More importantly, the exhibit area will be more compact but still roomy, with all exhibitors getting walking trail exposure. Registration will be more streamlined and there will also be additional food vendors.

To help attract even more forestry professionals to the event, on-site training and education opportunities will be offered to loggers and foresters for the first time.

Along with an improving economy overall, the demand for packaging and wood products has positively impacted log and fiber demand in the last several months. As well, new and expanded wood fiber and log markets have ballooned and others are in the works, particularly in the Mid-Atlantic region. This has already resulted in expanded logging capacity in northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia, and more logging capacity will be needed to meet mill demands.

The event is co-sponsored by the North Carolina Association of Professional Loggers, North Carolina Forestry Association, and Hatton-Brown Publishers, parent company of Southern Loggin’ Times and Timber Harvesting & Wood Fiber Operations.

CLICK HERE for show program.  YouTube video from the 2011 show.


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JCVB Joins the Everwondr Network

Everwondr Calendar JoCo Visitors Bureau joins the Everwondr Calendar Network to promote the county's events and festivals.

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau is charged with promoting the attractions, accommodations, shopping, dining and events that draw visitation to the county.  Now the JCVB has joined the Everwondr Network that automatically includes the county's events in a statewide searchable event calendar.

"Social media is built on the idea of sharing leads to bigger audiences. So it stands to reason, if your events calendar could share information you would attract more attention, and more visitors."  states the About Us section of Everwondr Network.

That’s the premise behind the EverWondr Network. They work with local Convention & Visitors Bureaus, Arts Councils, Attractions and Media to connect events calendars to one centralized database.

For partners involved, this means that they can load an event once and it goes everywhere in a searchable state-wide database. No more loading to multiple sites, multiple times. No more wasted effort. Typically partners on the network report a reduction in admin time between 80 to 95 percent.

For users, combined events means no more hunting site to site to find something to do. Partner sites are always at the top of search results. Users simply pick a local partner and find a complete list of events happening in the city, the county or across the state. No more expired dates or incomplete listings to contend with.

The system even helps to promote hotels, attractions, restaurants and shopping under a "Plan your visit" section. The system will share events to social pages automatically, send out an HTML emails about events dynamically created from the information loaded.

By sharing the information consumers want, ticket sales and attendance are up and hotel stays have increased by 4% or more in some partner counties. The Everwondr network visitation has topped 8.5 million annually.

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“Mad About Ava” Tapped as a County-wide Cocktail Party

"Mad About Ava" Cocktail Party for 2013 Ava Gardner Festival Ava Gardner as Maxine in "The Night of the Iguana"

The television series Mad Men is hot right now -- and Ava Gardner as Maxine Faulk in Tennessee Williams',  The Night of the Iguana was steamy back in the day.  This year's Ava Gardner Festival is channeling the culture of the 60s fashions, cocktails, and hosting a "Mad About Ava" Cocktail Party to open the festival, October 4th.

Ava Gardner loved North Carolina and came home whenever possible to visit her family in Smithfield, Raleigh and Winston-Salem. Several tourism related partners from across Johnston County are opening their doors on Friday, October 4, as part of a countywide “Mad About Ava” Cocktail Party. The event will feature a 1960s Mad Men dress-up contest and patrons can enjoy specialty martinis named for Ava, craft beers, and wine cocktails, as well as food and entertainment.  At all locations patrons may enter the 60s fashion costume contest on for cash prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, as well as door prizes at the museum.

Festivities begin with a "Wine Down Friday" happy hour at the wineries and custom craft beers at the breweries. Participating locations are the Deer River Brewing Co. in Clayton, Double Barley Brewing in Wilson’s Mills, Hinnant Family Vineyards and Winery in Pine Level, Adams Vineyards in Willow Spring, and Gregory Vineyards near McGee’s Crossroads. Other restaurants and bars along the “Cocktail Party” trail are The Little Brown Jug and Bistro on Third in Smithfield and The FlipSide in Clayton.  The new Broadslab Distillery in Benson will be offering specially blended cocktails at the Bistro on Third.

Activities at the museum on Friday night include heavy hors d' oeuvres, specialty drinks, new exhibits based on The Night of the Iguana, and entertainment by Columbian-American guitar player Carlos Castilla.  This year’s Grand Prize Drawing will be for a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The trip is an all-inclusive package for two, including three nights at the beautiful Vamar Vallarta Marina and Beach Resort (Memorial Day to Labor Day), roundtrip airfare from the continental US, meals, beverages, taxes, hotel fees, and gratuities. Raffle tickets for the trip to Mexico are $25.00 each and may be purchased at participating locations on the Mad About Ava Cocktail Party trail or directly through the museum. The ticketed event held in the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield begins at 7pm and tickets are $25 each.

Several area hotels in Smithfield have partnered with the museum in offering an “Ava Festival Package” that includes discounted room rates and a gift bag from the Johnston County Visitors Bureau. For more information on hotel accommodations, visit the website:  http://www.visitsmithfield.org

This year’s festival is presented by Smithfield’s Chicken N’ BBQ, a popular restaurant chain which started out in Smithfield in 1964. The restaurant’s owners have a love for vintage movies, and each of the 33 restaurants has an Ava Gardner photo wall as a tribute to Smithfield’s native daughter.

The Ava Gardner Museum is located in downtown Smithfield at 325 E. Market Street. Information on these events and advance ticket purchases is available on the museum website, www.avagardner.org or by calling 919-934-5830.  The museum is open Monday-Saturday, 9-5pm and Sunday 2pm-5pm. There will be extended hours during the Festival: Saturday, 9am-6pm, and Sunday, 1-6pm.

Don't forget to rummage through  your closet (or your Mom's) for a 60s Cocktail Dress -- you might just win a prize!

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Hospitality Training Program, “Hospitality Heroes” Updated

Sign up for the FREE Hospitality Heroes Program offer at Johnston Community College -- become a tourism ambassador! Sign up for the FREE Hospitality Heroes Program offered at Johnston Community College!

Since 2010, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau (JCVB) has partnered with Johnston Community College’s Small Business Center to offer the hospitality training course known as “Hospitality Heroes”.  This training course is offered online monthly and is FREE to new and existing tourism industry employees in the county.  Over the past three years, the program has had over 100 graduates.

“Having an easily accessible educational program for our visitor industry partners was a long-term goal of the bureau’s and with the help of Johnston Community College we are providing that service,” stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director. “Knowing your product is the first step in sales and Johnston County is our tourism product; we consider every front line employee an ambassador for tourism.”

Over the summer break, Hospitality Heroes was updated to include information which will help students answer visitor questions when approached on the job.  Information important to know includes Johnston County’s new attractions, hotel openings, restaurants, and the many shopping and outlet opportunities available for visitors to enjoy.  Just having the basic information and knowing the Visitors Bureau provides marketing materials like the Visitors Guide, Visitor Maps, Event Calendars and Websites will help front-line employees find the resources they need to help visitors.

Facts and figures about national, state and local visitor spending, visitor demographic profiles and many additional resources have been updated.  The new Hospitality Heroes program features JCVB’s five new promotional YouTube videos based on the following themes: Agritourism, Arts & Entertainment, History & Heritage, Shopping New & Old, and Outdoor Recreation.  The new program also highlights the results of the Visitor Profile Study conducted by East Carolina University’s Center for Sustainable Tourism in 2013.

With course completion, each graduate will receive a Hospitality Heroes certificate, a gift bag from JCVB, and vouchers to local attractions within the county that they can visit complimentary.  Knowing more about the destination will help front line employees direct visitors, answer questions and help give them a better impression of our communities.

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Independent Film Chooses Johnston County Courthouse for Shoot

Walk Through the Valley Movie Production Movie production, "Walk Through the Valley" on location in Smithfield, August 24-25

For over 15 years, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau has been trying to gain the eye of the NC Film Office to promote Johnston County when they pitch producers on filming in North Carolina.  Truth be told it's been an uphill battle against the popularity of  "Hollywood East" in Wilmington, the commercial filming in large cities, and having a Film Office in the Triangle to coordinate with on leads for film scouting.

But one Friday afternoon, Debbie Ivanrie walked in our office, as a friend of hers had been in Smithfield on court business and told her about our courthouse.  She had met with Will Crocker and loved the feel of the courtroom for her legal drama, "Walk Through the Valley."  Meetings were held with the powers that be, additional locations were found for lawyer's homes and offices, for hospital and airport scenes and the production dates were set.

Just like a conference, sports tournament or major festival, a film production brings economic development or visitor spending to a community, and that's why the visitors bureau pursues this market segment.  We don't have stars in our eyes that we will capture the big Hollywood blockbuster, but last year we pitched some locations for "Iron Man 3", and the film "Bad Grandpa" selected some locations in Selma for the film which will be released October 25th.

This is Debbie's first production which she will pitch to the major film festivals like Sundance in Utah, but after that round of introductions, we have invited her back to Smithfield for a film screening here.  We hope this is just the first of  such productions we help bring to Johnston County.
So for now we work on building our locations database, working with the new Triangle Regional Film Commission, and preparing our communities to be "Production Ready", which is a program offered by the Triangle Film Commission.  We have a Hollywood legacy with the fame of Ava Gardner, but today it's all about tourism spending and promoting our destination --  let's be ready for our close-up!


Debbie Ivanrie King

Eirnavie Entertainment Inc, is based in Cary, North Carolina with a goal to shoot feature films across the globe. With an inspiration of its founder Debbie Ivanrie to start a production company that focuses on casting mature actors.  Follow the film's progress on Facebook,  click here!

Synopsis of  the film:  A woman of high respectability is suddenly faced with the fight of her life; the struggle of trying to save her name, reputation and her liberty. To compound the emotional grief that has virtually extinguished her sense of self-worth, she is barely surviving the tragedy that may haunt her for the rest of her life if she is not exonerated. This is a courtroom drama.

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Get Fit: Recreation in Johnston County

Mountain Biking at Clayton Legend Park Mountain Biking at Clayton Legend Park

Johnston County offers an abundance of rural landscapes, farms, parks and recreation from corner to corner and all points in between to get fit.  Today, more communities are offering trails for walking and hiking, bike club riders are found on our rural roads on Saturday mornings, and new events are popping up like the Color Run at Howell Woods this November.

If you love to get outdoors and away from the highrises and high population areas in the triangle, we invite you to drive east of I-40 or US Hwy 70 out of Raleigh to the rolling hills and flat farm land of Johnston County.  Here's just a sample of ways to get fit and have some fun too!

Sam's Branch Greenway Trail and Clayton River Walk on the Neuse
Enjoy this beautiful 1.25 mile, 10-foot-wide paved pedestrian and biking trail that connects to the Clayton River Walk, a  4-mile section of the Mountains to the Sea Trail (MST) great for hiking, biking and viewing nature along the Neuse River.  Trail head at 1358 O'Neil St., Clayton.  919-553-1550 www.townofclaytonnc.org

Buffalo Creek Greenway
Trail entrance located at the back of Smithfield Community Park for this 3-mile greenway that runs along the Spring Brand to the Neuse River Walk at Smithfield Commons.  Part of the MST through Johnston County, the ten foot wide path accommodates hikers, runners and bikers. 600 Booker Dairy Rd., Smithfield.  www.smithfield-nc.com, 919-934-2148

Hexagon Wake Park at Tucker Lake
Fun and supportive environment for beginners to advanced wake board riders with daily lessons for wake boarding and wake skating.  3025 Allen's Crossroads Rd., Benson.  1-877-253-7275 www.hexagoncablepark.com

Legend Park Mountain Bike Trail
From beginner to advanced riders, this 8-mile bike trail offers rock gardens, boulders, jumps, and bridges.  Trails are multi-directional. 550 City Rd., Clayton. 919-553-1550, www.townofclaytonnc.org

Neuse Adventure Canoe & Kayak Rentals
Two hour canoe trips along the scenic Neuse River begin 9am and 1pm weekends or 6-8pm weekdays during the summer.  Groups up to 16-20 welcome.  Trips are self-guided.  2975 Covered Bridge Rd., Clayton. 919-553-3295 www.neuseadventures.com

Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center
This 2,800 acres outdoor classroom offers 25 miles of unpaved roads and trails for small group horseback riding, mountain biking, bird watching, long-distance hiking, no-trace camping and fishing.  Reservations are required for horseback riding, camping and fishing.
6601 Devil's Racetrack Rd., Four Oaks.  919-938-0115, www.johnstoncc.edu/howellwoods

Clemmons Education State Forest
Features of this managed forest include well marked trails, educational exhibits and displays, ponds, picnic shelter and a selection of talking trees and rocks which are a favorite of children visiting the forest.  Forest open March to November.  2411 Old US 70 W., Clayton.  919-553-5651 www.ncesf.org/cesf/home.htm

Wow, this is just a sample of outdoor get fit options in Johnston County!  For complete listings and planning ideas, visit our website, www.johnstoncounty.org


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Plays, Musicals, and Laughs at Area Theaters

Clayton Piano Festival The Clayton Center stage with the grand piano waiting for the next performance!

Do you have to drive to the "Big City" for everything?  We think not!  You will find great Southern fare in our modest diners and restaurants, outstanding shopping bargains in area outlets, and you will find culture and arts just down the street in Clayton, Smithfield, and Benson.

This fall's cultural line-up is set for The Clayton Center, the Paul A. Johnston Auditorium, The Neuse Little Theatre and the W.J. Barefoot Auditorium.  Each community has a variety of entertainment to offer and at VERY reasonable prices....and you might just see up-and-coming talent before they make it big.  Local crooners of American Idol fame Scotty McCreary and Clay Aiken both got their early experience singing on local stages in Johnston County.

Here's a taste of the cultural line-up available this year -- call and order tickets today for your favorites!

The Clayton Center - purchase tickets here!

Ryan Shupe & the Rubber Band, Saturday, Sept. 28 2013 – fresh and funky, their self-dubbed “Post-Hee-Haw-Funkadelic-HipHop-Newgrass” sound is unique and creative!Barbara Bailey Hutchison, Saturday, Nov.23 2013– this popular Grammy Award winning and critically acclaimed singer-songwriter bring her melodic alternative folk music to The Clayton Center stage as well as to students of Clayton High School in a week-long visual arts workshop.

It’s A Wonderful Life: Live from WVL Radio Theatre, Saturday, Dec. 7 2013 – a clever stage adaption of the classic George Bailey story breathes new life into Bedford Falls in 1945.

Tar River Swing Band Big Band Christmas, Saturday, Dec. 14 2013 – a new brand of classic jazz with a holiday flair that will delight audience members of all ages.

Junior Brown, Saturday, Jan. 25 2014 – dubbed “America’s most versatile musician,” Junior Brown combines the soul of country and the spirit of rock n’ roll.

Hot Club of San Francisco, Friday, Feb. 14 2014 – a Gypsy Swing band made up of accomplished and versatile musicians from the city by the bay perform with style and panache.

Celtic Tenors, Saturday, March 15 2014 –the world-class tenors return with their charismatic personalities and incredible vocal skills.

School House Rock, Saturday, April 5 2014 – East Carolina University’s Storybook Theatre presents this fun, interactive production for students ages 5-12 with an educational children’s workshop afterwards.

James Gregory, Friday, April 11 2014 – the “Funniest Man In America” returns with his rib-tickling reflections on life from the front porch.

The Neuse Little Theatre - call 919-934-1873 for tickets.

Sex Please, We're Sixty, September 13-15, 20-21, 2013 - An American Farce by Michael and Susan Parker on the effects of little blue pills and men and the mayhem that ensues.

Dracula Bites, February 14-16, 21-22, 2014 - A comedy by Duke Emberger and Virginia Cate about Stewart Minor who has always wanted to perform the role of Dracula!  See what happens when the production spirals out of control.

A Little Murder Never Hurt Anyone, April 4-6, 11-12, 2014 - A comedy by Ron Bernas about Matthew Perry who vows to kill off his wife by the next New Year's Eve and the year long match of wits and devious murder attempts.

The Red Velvet Cake War, May 16-18, 23-24, 2014 - A comedy by Jessie Jones, etc. company about the three Verdeen cousins who could not have picked a worse time to throw their family reunion.

Paul A. Johnston Auditorium - Ticket Information

Generation Bluegrass, September 21, 2013 - Born in the mind of 17-year-old Corey Smith as he sought to merge his talents and love for Bluegrass Music.

CMS "Where Stars Get Their Start' More Than Country, October 4-5, 2013 - an opportunity for aspiring artists to perform in a state-of-the-art facility with a professional band and back-up singers in a 2 day- multiple show stint.

BJ Thomas, November 2, 12013  - A true American institution whose iconic pop, country and gospel hits defined generations, B.J. Thomas has found a unique way to celebrate an incredible half a century in music.

Meredith Willson's The Music Man, November 15-17, 2013 - Professor Harold Hill, a confidence man, finds his challenge in River City, Iowa.  Follow his exploits with the boys marching band, the local pool hall the local librarian Marian that he falls for and could expose him to the town.  Presented by the Neuse Little Theatre.

Seussical, February 22, 2013 -  "Oh, the thinks you can think" when Dr. Seuss's best-loved stories collide and cavort in an unforgettable musical caper! Adapted from the Broadway version, this adaptation especially for young audiences features thirteen actors and enhanced production values.

CMS December 2013 'Where Stars Get Their Start' Christmas Show, December 5-7, 2013 - an opportunity for aspiring artists to perform in a state-of-the-art facility with a professional band and back-up singers in a 2 day- multiple show stint.

Blood Done Sign My Name, March 14, 2014 -  In Blood Done Sign My Name, Tim Tyson recounts the 1970 murder of Henry ‘Dickie’ Marrow in Oxford, NC and the events that followed.

The Fantasticks, March 19, 2014 -  A legend in its own time, The Fantasticks is the longest running musical in history! A simple romantic comedy about a boy, a girl, their meddling fathers and the wall that divides them.

Shang Forbes & Aaliyah Ford, March 28, 2014 - Shang has cemented his position as one of the brightest funnymen in the business and his political and explosive humor has been showcased on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam”, BET’s “Comic View Grand Stand”, and many others. Aaliyah learned early the power of humor to draw attention to herself, both at home and at school.

Grease, March 29, 2014 - The brand new sing-along version of the classic film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John brought to you by the producers of Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music...Dressing up is strongly encouraged and full audience participation is essential.

Tim Hawkins with special guest Bob Smiley, April 12, 2014   - Since giving up his job as a grocery truck driver in 2002, Tim Hawkins has been forging the magical blend between two comedic ideals: A genuinely funny comedy show that caters to the entire family.

W. J. Barefoot Auditorium - For more information call 919-894-3825

Christmas Variety Show, November 22-24, 2013 - Christmas show presented by the Carolina Music Showcase.

Remembering Mayberry, Jan 31, Feb 1-2, Feb 8-9, 2014 - Back by popular demand enjoy this variety show with music, skits and family fun!

Spring Musical, May 2-4, 2014 - Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor (Tentative)

Children's Theatre Workshop, July 7-18, 2014


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2012 Visitor Impact for Johnston County

County Spending by Domestic Visitors Increases by 3.4 Percent

The North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development announced today that domestic visitors to and within Johnston County spent $197.66 million in 2012, an increase of 3.4 percentage from 2011.

Holiday Inn Express The Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Smithfield opened in May 2012.

"A sign of a healthy tourism economy in Johnston County is evident in the return of development projects in the county with  hotels opening in 2012,  capital improvements at area attractions, and the growing interest in attracting sporting tournaments," stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, "we are also excited to see the expansion in meeting and special events venues with The Farm Banquet Hall opening this October."

Tourism impact highlights for 2012:

    • The travel and tourism industry directly employees more than 4,000 full and part-time in Johnston County.
    • Total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Johnston was $29 million.
    • State tax revenue generated in Johnston County totaled $10.78 million through state sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income.

    • Approximately $4.88 million in local taxes were generated from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses.

Gov. Pat McCrory announced in May that visitors to North Carolina spent a record $19.4 billion in 2012, an increase of 5.4 percent from 2011. These statistics are from the “2012 Economic Impact Of Travel On North Carolina Counties.” The study was prepared for the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development by the U.S. Travel Association.
Statewide highlights include:

    • State tax receipts as a result of visitor spending neared $1 billion in 2012 and have increased 42 percent in the last 10 years.
    • Visitors spend more than $53 million per day in North Carolina and contribute over $4.2 million per day in state and local tax revenues as a result of that spending (about $2.7 million in state taxes and $1.6 million in local taxes).
    •  The travel and tourism industry directly employees nearly 200,000 North Carolinians.

We often rely on the research provided by the NC Division of Tourism, as they have a research department and we are a small bureau and do not have the funds to commission research studies.  Two of the most helpful Fact Sheets area businesses can use to understand who their "visitor market" may be and their "demographics" are the following two quick fact sheets.  We encourage area business to consider the visitor in their market mix when marketing or operating a business -- retail and restaurants owners may not know that up to 35% of their business could come from visitors.

2012 Demographics Fast Facts
2012 EI Fast Facts to publish


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Thump It Once, Thump it Twice and Find the Right Watermelon

Watermelon Salad with Feta Watermelon Salad with Feta

Whether it's round, oblong, dark green or bright green learning to tell if a watermelon is ripe is all about thumping.  Growing up on a farm in Johnston County, kids out in a watermelon field learn to thump a melon and listen for the slightly hollow sound of ripeness.  The fun is thumping until the best sounding melon is the one you have to have.

In time for summer 4th of July celebrations start looking for watermelons at our local farmer's markets or just a truck load on the side of the road.  Enjoy melons with a little salt, in recipes, or in a variety of beverages.

For more about local farms, summer celebrations and planning a visit to Johnston County, check our website at www.johnstoncountync.org/agritourism.


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Grilled, Steamed, or Creamed Fresh Corn -- Yum!

It may be yellow or it may be white, but we think fresh corn on the cob is tasty in any color. In Johnston County, one of the fastest growing counties in North Carolina, road-side fields with tall corn stalks are still easy to find.

Corn Muffins with fresh corn Corn Muffins with fresh corn

Although there are many pick-your-own farms for fruits like strawberries and blueberries, we suggest leaving the harvesting of corn to our local farmers.  Getting in the rows and rows of corn is "hot" business and knowing what's ready to pick is more difficult than finding a bright red berry.  Stop by the Clayton Community Farm Market or Lee's Produce in Clayton or 701 Farm Market in Smithfield to buy corn by the dozen or the bushel.  Corn can be easily frozen off or on the cob and enjoyed all year long in your favorite recipes.  To enjoy on-farm tours, fresh produce and activities for your family, visit our website, www.johnstoncountync.org/agritourism

There are a host of recipes for fresh corn, and here's one of our favorites to share with our readers.


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Could Anything be Finer than Peach Cobbler?

July in Johnston County is harvest season for a bounty of vegetables which we love, but can anything be sweeter than sun-kissed peaches?  And in the tradition of keeping it simple, which is really the definition of Southern cooking, Peach Cobbler is a must-have recipe in any great cook's arsenal.  This recipe works best with peaches, blueberries, and blackberries as it's light, buttery and crispy.

Peach Cobbler

8 Medium Sized Ripe Peaches
Peeled and sliced, 1/2 cup sugar stirred into peaches to create juices, let set in the refrig. as you prepare the rest of the recipe.

1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
3/4 cup self-rising flour (do not use AP flour or you will have a flop)
Mix all three ingredients well in a small bowl.

Melt 1/2 cup (one stick of butter) in a 13 x 9 glass cooking dish.  Pour sugar/flour/milk mixture on top of the butter, then place the peaches on top of this mixture -- DO NOT STIR.

Baked in 350 degree oven for appox. 45 minutes until top is crispy and brown. (everyone will want the crispy edges -- they do around our house!)  Serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

Serves 8 (maybe!)

The Thompson Orchard in Four Oaks, just off I-95 Exit 90, has been growing peaches for over 35 years.  Stop by and get a bushel for eating and freezing so you can enjoy peaches all year round.  Peaches freeze very well by just peeling (8 medium), mix with small amount of sugar and place in a large freezer bag (lay them flat so they stack easily), then you can pull out a bag with the correct amount of peaches for your cobbler.  Your family will thank you!

For more great ideas on Agricultural Venues and visiting Johnston County, check out our website, www.johnstoncountync.org/agritourism.

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Back to School and Tax Free!

Back to School and Tax Free!

Back to School & Fax Free Weekend

What event in August can combine two favorite things for women -- shopping and saving money? It's the Back to School Events at Carolina Premium Outlets in Smithfield and the NC Tax Free weekend. Carolina Premium Outlet's Back-to-School & Fall Preview Sale is scheduled for Thursday - Monday, Aug 1 - 5 where shoppers will enjoy extra savings on top of everyday savings of 25% to 65% off retail at national brand stores like Tommy Hilfiger, The Gap, Banana Republic and many more.

North Carolina Sales Tax Holiday will also take place during the first weekend of August, Friday - Sunday, Aug 2 - 4.  Plan a trip to Smithfield during the North Carolina Sales Tax Holiday and enjoy tax free shopping on most clothing, footwear and backpacks under $100*

CPO Extended Shopping Hours:

Fri, Aug 2: 9am-10pm
Sat, Aug 3: 9am-10pm
Sun, Aug 4: 10am-7pm

*The tax free weekend for general merchandise purchased in North Carolina applies to the following items:

Clothing, footwear, and school supplies under $100
Sports and recreation equipment under $50
Computers under $3,500
Computer equipment under $250

"Customers in this economy are looking for value and quality at a great price and shoppers know Carolina Premium Outlets offers both,” said Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director, Johnston County Visitors Bureau. "The back-to-school period, like Black Friday, is super important to our destination for attracting visitors,” she added. “Back-to-school is one the biggest times of the year for shopping at Carolina Premium Outlets."

For deals on hotels located adjacent to the outlet center, visit the bureau website, www.visitsmithfield.org


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Summer Time Inspires Backyard Farmers

Home-grown Tomato Sandwich!

Johnston County is one of the fastest growing counties in North Carolina, but our roots are still in the soil and our agricultural heritage is strong.  Our farmer's are very visible at the NC Farmer's Market as the spring and summer crops are being harvested which starts with sweet strawberries in April.  By the time July rolls around, the bounty is rich and plentiful with corn, peaches, okra, blueberries and more.  But there is one crop that brings out the amateur farmer in us all -- the tomato.

Tomatoes will grow very well in planters and raised beds and many families grow this red, juicy, tasty, fruit in the backyard.  As the tomatoes start getting ripe on the vine, the anticipation for that first tomato sandwich begins. It's a simple recipe, but one that  in a way defines summertime in the South.

Tomato Sandwich Recipe

  •   1 medium size ripe tomato (homegrown, of course)
  •   2 slices bread like Pepperidge Farm  Country White
  •   1 Tablespoon Duke’s Mayonnaise (do not substitute)
  •   Salt and pepper

Wash and cut the tomato into thick slices. Spread the mayonnaise onto both slices of the bread. Make sure to spread the mayonnaise to the edge of each slice of bread. Place the tomato slices on one piece of bread. Add salt and pepper. Cover with the second slice of bread, mayonnaise side down, of course. Cut the sandwich into two pieces and enjoy the best tomato sandwich ever.

If tomatoes are not growing in your back yard, and you need to find a reliable source there are several options in the county.  On the weekend, local farmer's markets like the Clayton Community Farm Market and 701 Farmer's Market are great places to find a bounty of crop vegetables .  Other options are Lee's Produce in Clayton and Smith's Farm in the McGee's Crossroads area.  Wherever you find your tomatoes, we hope you try some of the recipes we will be posting up this month and that you will shop with our local farmers.

To find our more about visiting local farms in the county, visit our website, www.johnstoncountync.org/agritourism.

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Time to "Wine Down" in Johnston County

There is a new event in Johnston County targeted to individuals looking to “wine down” and relax after a long week at work. Three of the wineries along the Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail are hosting events the first Friday of the month, appropriately named, “Wine Down Fridays”.

Relax, Unwind, Enjoy Friday Afternoon at a vineyard in Johnston County!

There is a new event in Johnston County targeted to individuals looking to “wine down” and relax after a long week at work.  Three of the wineries along the Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail are hosting events the first Friday of the month, appropriately named, “Wine Down Fridays”.

Hinnant’s Vineyard and Winery, Gregory Vineyards and Adams Vineyard all are open for extended hours on July 5th until 9pm. Each winery will offer 50% off their special wine slushy’s on event dates.  Future dates for the Wine Down Fridays are August 2, September 6 and October 4th.

For more information on the offerings at each winery, please contact them directly for details.  Hinnant’s is located at 826 Pine-Level-Micro Rd., Pine Level, 919-965-3350; Gregory Vineyards is located at 275 Bowling Springs Dr., Angier, 919-894-7700 and Adams Vineyard is located at 3390 John Adams Rd., Willow Springs, 919-567-1010.

Check the official Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail website for more information on the trail and like the trail on Facebook.

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JCVB Board Changes Special Event Grants Guidelines

The Johnston County Tourism Authority Board of Directors has approved new guidelines for the Special Event Grants Program for 2013-14.  In an effort to streamline the application for the event planners and reduce administrative work for the JCVB staff, new guidelines will go into effect July 1, 2013.

“For over 20 years, the Visitors Bureau has supported events and festivals with marketing dollars to attract visitors to the county and we continue to believe strongly in helping as many organizations as possible to build their attendance through marketing campaigns,” stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director. “We are proposing planners embrace partnering with visitors industry businesses, we have reduced the amount of paperwork, and focused less on number of attendees but more on generating overnight stays.”

The Special Projects Committee, chaired by Trish Stewart had several meetings to discuss new procedures and the committee wrote and revised the application.  The highlights of the changes are as follows:

First, applications will be accepted throughout the fiscal year and approved by the board at monthly meetings.  Applications must be received 90 days prior to the event and must include the date, a 25-50 word description, photo, web link, press materials such as releases,  and the public phone number to be used by the Visitors Bureau on the county-wide event calendar.

Second, the number of applications per organization has gone from two to one; however, the amount available to the organization has increased from $250 for community events to $500.  In the past, organizations could apply for two grants and now they can receive the same amount with one application.  All towns in the county can apply for one grant for any event that targets visitors from outside Johnston County.

Third, major Annual Festivals are approved to receive $1,000 and need only provide the marketing materials to the Visitors Bureau 90 days out and hopefully at least six months prior to their events.  The major annual festivals have been identified as Benson Mule Days, Cleveland Strawberry Festival, Bentonville Battlefield Anniversary Event, Selma Railroad Days, Smithfield Ham & Yam Festival and the Clayton Harvest Festival.  The organizers of these events will also be eligible for one additional $500 grant should they host other events during the year which target visitors from outside the county.

Although not a requirement of receiving funds, the JCVB is encouraging event planners to involve visitor related businesses in their event plans for hotel packages, tickets plus deals for area restaurants or retail coupons in welcome bags, etc., to enhance the visitor experience and cross promote with area businesses.   The JCVB staff plans on hosting a workshop with event planners and inviting area businesses to meet and discuss ways to partner together.

Applications for 2013-14 Special Event Grants have been mailed out to event planners in the county and forms may be found on the bureau’s website, at http://www.johnstoncountync.org/progams/jcvb-grants-program. Applications are for non-profit organizations only and may be returned to Angel Phillips, Office Manager at Johnston County Visitors Bureau, 235-A East Market St., Smithfield, NC  27577.

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93rd Annual State Singing Convention, June 21-23

The oldest festival in the county and one of the oldest in the state began in 1921 as a treat for the town. Area church choirs met in an old tobacco warehouse to have a “sing.” About 200 people heard two choirs that day, but over the years thousands would come every year for the event.

Today, large audiences still gather June 21-23, 2013 at the Benson Singing Grove on Main Street where gospel groups come to compete for trophies.

When Simon Honeycutt suggested in 1921 that an annual singing convention should be held “for the development of the cultural and spiritual life of all people in song for the glory of God,” little did he or anyone else know it would become a week-end long event with thousands of people coming to hear hundreds of gospel singers.

Singers of all ages compete in the sing. Winners of the first singing competitions received Loving Cups which were provided by Sears retail store. Until 1950, when a covered stage was built and dedicated to the founders, temporary stages were built from lumber borrowed from R. F. Smith’s saw mill.

This year, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau provided grant funds to the Town of Benson for repairs and improvements to the Singing Grove stage and restrooms. For more information on the events at this year’s sing, visit www.gospelsingingconvention.org or call 919-894-4389.

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VisitSmithfield.org Gets Updated Look

A current project for the Johnston County Visitors Bureau staff in 2013 is updating and revising the six town websites created to promote visitation to the county.  The site to get the latest updates is Smithfield, at www.visitsmithfield.org. With a new look and up to date information, the new Smithfield site is easier to manage and more convenient for visitors.

The Town of Smithfield is home to many hotels, restaurants, shops, and annual festivals. The new visitsmithfield.org takes all of these attractions and organizes them with descriptions, contact information, and photographs. There is also information about the town itself, the history and early growth of the town, and relocation information.

The redesigned site also has a couple new features. There is now an entire section on filming in Smithfield. This gives film makers information on locations, connects them to the NC Film

Office resources, and provides helpful information on statewide film incentives. There is also a link to the Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail website, and the site promotes the

Girlfriends Getaway Shopping Package which is very popular with leisure travelers to the area.

“Links to the VisitSmithfield.org site are very important to Google searches and we encourage local business owners listed on the site, to provide a link from their websites to the town’s,” stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director.

Visitsmithfield.org is a resource not only for visitors, but local residents wanting to stay connected to what’s happening in Smithfield or “deals around town” that might be available. These new changes make it easier for everyone to use. If there are any updates that were missed, please contact the Johnston County Visitors bureau at www. johnstoncountync.org or call 919-989-8687.

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3 Little Pigs Triathlon to be Held on June 15

For the fourth year, the Chick-fil-A 3 Little Pigs Triathlon will be held in Smithfield, North Carolina. On Saturday, June 15, 2013, at 7:30am athletes will participate in a 250-yard pool swim, 14-mile bike, and 3.1 mile run.

The route for the three events will take participants around the Smithfield area, sticking mainly around the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center (SRAC) and surrounding areas. The event will begin with swimming at the SRAC at 600 Booker Dairy Road then carry on to the bike course from the SRAC into rural Johnston County on a scenic but mostly flat course. The triathlon will end with the run event which is an out-and-back course around Smithfield's Community Park, and down and back on the new Buffalo Creek Greenway.

"We are excited about the response we've received about the 3 Little Pigs Triathlon," said Martin Tetreault, a committee member for the event. "Last year, we had almost 500 participants and raised over $17,000. We expect similar numbers this year. With the help of the SRACand The Rotary Club of Central Johnston County, the event will provide an opportunity for fun and fundraising."

Family activities will also be available including the SRAC splash pool, a jump-o-line, a misting tent, face painting and the playground at the finish line.

Chick-fil-A of Smithfield is the title sponsor for the event. Proceeds will benefit the Friends of the Park and The Rotary Club of Central Johnston County.

For online registration and more information call 919-934-1408.

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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.


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