"And all at once, summer collapsed into fall." -Oscar Wilde


How well we know, especially in North Carolina, the quickness with which the dog days of summer give way to autumn's chill. Some of our residents and visitors mourn the turning of the season - saying goodbye to beach chairs, sunscreen, warm water, and ice cream cones. Others hail the first fallen leaf as the harbinger of cool weather, football, bonfires, and hot toddies. Unlike the great East vs. West BBQ debate, there is no right answer here.

However, fall is one of my favorite times to be in JoCo and it's not just about the fantastic weather... there's also so much to do. Autumn is an excellent time of year to explore Johnston County. Starting in September visitors and locals will find many unique festivals to enjoy, and several that honor JoCo’s agricultural heritage. Placement at the juncture of I-95 and I-40 makes JoCo a convenient location to visit on the East Coast.

Girl and mule compete in event at Mule Days in Benson, NC.

One of the more popular and unique festivals in JoCo is Benson Mule Days, which began in 1949 in the charming farming community of Benson whose leaders wanted to honor the hard-working mule and the importance of agriculture in the region. This festival boosts mule competitions, rodeos, concerts, and carnival rides. This year's 74th annual Mule Days will take place from the 21st through the 24th of September.

Other September events include the Four Oaks Acorn Festival, Selma's Railroad Run 5k, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder at the Paul A Johnston Auditorium, the first annual Clayton BBQ Challenge, a Monster Truck Throwdown at GALOT Motorsports Park, and Pine Level's 150th Celebration. And don't forget the town farmer's markets, which continue into the Fall; you can find Clayton, Wilson's Mills, Selma, and Smithfield Saturday market event listings on our calendar

The Selma Railroad Days Festival is always the first full weekend in October, which is the 6th through the 8th this year. Railroad Days includes a parade, crafts, food, a children's area, and even a large model train display at the Selma Train Depot, along with a variety of entertainment. Visit Downtown Smithfield the weekend of October 6th-8th to attend the Ava Gardner Festival, offering both free and paid events to celebrate the local starlet! 

Other October events include Saturdays at Sonlight Farms, evenings at Clayton Fear Farm (not for the faint of heart), and a special Saturday full of events with special guests from the county's Heritage Center on the 29th. You can also learn about all the area farms offering pumpkins and Fall fun activities for families by checking out the Agritourism category on our calendar

Later in the month make sure to attend the Clayton Harvest Festival, happening from the 26th through the 29th. This event incorporates a midway full of carnival rides, a classic car show, a Latin American Festival, the Squealin' on the Square BBQ cook-off, a huge vendor fair, and other community-focused events, food, music, and fun. Makes plans to visit Bentonville Battlefield during their annual Fall Festival. Bring the family and celebrate fall at Bentonville Battlefield on Saturday the 28th. Planned activities include wagon rides, old-timey kids games, music, townball (19th-century baseball), antique tractors, historic demonstrations, and more! Bring a blanket or chair and listen to live music.

Other weekly events to look for in the fall season include touch-a-truck events, community theater productions, Oktoberfest celebrations, movie nights, and more. Find it all on our calendar this fall!

Neuse River Amphitheater with Crowd at 4th of July event.