"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!