Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner co-starred in three films together and called each other “great old pals.”  The 8th Annual Ava Gardner Festival scheduled for October 5-7, 2012 will commemorate Gardner and Peck’s life-long friendship with new exhibits, heritage tours, and vintage movies.

Peck once said, “It’s very hard to dominate Ava because of her essential strength of character, her honesty and this almost unreal beauty.” Their friendship lasted the entirety of their careers and upon her death he called Ava “outspoken”, “refreshing” and a “fine actress.”

The opening “Great Sinner” Gala on Friday will include casino games to echo the theme of the movie which was based on the 1866 short novel The Gambler written by Fyodor Dostoevsky.  Every attendee will be entered into a drawing for two tickets for The Embers Beach Music 5-day Cruise from Tampa, Florida to Cozumel and Grand Cayman, among other prizes. Tickets to the opening reception are $50 each and the festivities begin at 7pm.

Gardner and Peck starred together in the “The Great Sinner,” “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” and “On the Beach.”  All three movies will be shown at the museum on Saturday, October 6th.  In addition, the museum plans to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the filming of “To Kill a Mockingbird” during the festival and show the film on Sunday afternoon, October 7th.

Heritage tours on Saturday will be held throughout the day beginning at 9am. The guided tour will take visitors to places of significance to Ava, such as her birthplace, the Brogden Teacherage where she grew up, and will end at her gravesite at Sunset Memorial Park. All-day admission to the Ava Gardner Museum is $7 and heritage tour tickets are $12 for the 2012 season.

Living With Miss G, Authored by Mearene Jordan, Long-time Personal Assistant to Ava Gardner will be available at the festival and online. Many of the book’s real-life episodes arguably would rival some of the best fiction on the market. They range from excursions with billionaire Howard Hughes and visits at the Cuban estate of the loveable Ernest (“Papa”) Hemingway to painfully degrading moments in hotels, restaurants and clubs across America where blacks were not welcomed.

Jordan will be in Smithfield for the festival to celebrate her book’s release and to meet the many Ava Gardner fans. She will also make time to visit the grave of her employer and best friend for the first time since the star’s death in 1990. Living With Miss G is available for purchase in paperback and for Kindle at

The museum has partnered with several area hotels in Smithfield offering an “Ava Festival Package” which includes discount hotel accommodations, a gift bag from the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, and two tickets the museum to enjoy a movie presentation.  For more information on hotel accommodations, visit the website:

This year’s festival is presented by Smithfield Chicken N’ BBQ, a restaurant with a love for vintage movies which opened the first restaurant in Smithfield in 1964.  Each of the 33 restaurants has an Ava Gardner photo wall as a tribute to Smithfield’s native daughter. “The board of the Ava Gardner Museum is thrilled to partner with Smithfield Chicken N’ BBQ and we look forward to working with them to promote the restaurants as well, to the thousands of visitors that travel to Smithfield each year,” stated Todd Johnson, Museum Director.

The Ava Gardner Museum is located in downtown Smithfield, at 325 E. Market Street. More information may be found on the museum website, or call 919-934-5830 to purchase tickets in advance. The museum is open Monday-Saturday, 9-5pm and Sunday 2pm-5pm.