When planning excursions around festivals that happen annually in the south, keep Johnston County’s towns in mind. Johnston County is conveniently located where I-95, I-40, and Highway 70 come together just 30 minutes east of Raleigh, in the center of North Carolina. It is a fun and affordable destination with long-standing, unique events throughout the year.

For a current listing of all events in Johnston County throughout the year visit johnstoncountync.org/events.

The annual tradition of Little Miss Benson kissing the Best in Show Mule at Mule Days in Benson, NC.

Polar Bear Run: January 13 – The Polar Bear 5k Run is held to support Bailey’s Human Rescue, a local organization on a mission to eradicate the unnecessary overpopulation and euthanasia of domesticated animals. Top male and female finishers will be awarded in multiple age groups including children, adults, and pets too. Runners and guests will have the opportunity to grab a bite to eat from a breakfast truck onsite and make a visit to the downtown shops while they “cool” down. 

Black History Month: February 22 – The Johnston County Heritage Commission will host a Black History Quiz Bowl at the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield. Teams composed of community leaders will compete against each other by answering questions about significant African American personalities and events, including those at local, state, and national levels. Daniel E. D. Brown will serve as moderator. Singer Marvin Rawls, Jr., will also be on the program. The public is invited to attend, and admission is free. Refreshments will be served at the conclusion of the program.

Live @ the Rudy: Scheduled Throughout the YearThe Rudy Theatre offers four unique, seasonal, family-friendly shows with music, comedy, and more. The March and April show is the Easter Jubilee, May through July is the Summer Jubilee, August through October is the Classic Country Jubilee, and finally the anticipated Christmas Jubilee in November and December. 

Bentonville Battlefield Anniversary: March 16 – Bentonville commemorates the 159th anniversary of the largest battle on North Carolina soil, fought March 19-21, 1865. Presented in collaboration with the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, explore the journey of surgeons, stewards, and the wounded during and in the aftermath of the battle of Bentonville. Living history demonstrations include medical care in and around the Harper House field hospital, as well as weapons demonstrations.

Classic Antique Power Farm Heritage Days: April 12-13 – Step back in time and experience a variety of classic antique tractors at the Benson Chamber Park. The event will include tractor games, antique tractors & farm equipment demonstrations, craft vendors, food vendors, corn hole tournament, free live entertainment, bouncy houses, pedal tractor raffle, and a farm equipment auction.

Beach Fest: April 27 – This event held at The Farm Entertainment venue in Selma celebrates a unique regional musical genre. Going strong for over 10 years now, past Beach Fest performers have included Jim Quick & Coastline, The Embers, and Band of Oz. 

The crowd at the Beach Fest held in Selma, NC.

Ham & Yam Festival: May 4 – The annual Smithfield Ham & Yam Festival is teaming with ham biscuits, barbeque pork, sweet potatoes, and more. There will be craft vendors, kid’s activities, live entertainment, and the popular “What’s That Yam Thing?” art contest. 

East Coast Truckers Jamboree: May 9-11 – A three-day truck and car show, featuring big rigs and muscle cars. The event also boasts live music, games, and an impressive closing fireworks display. Held at the Kenly 95 Petro travel center. 

301 Endless Yard Sale: June 14-15 – Johnston County and its towns along US 301 host the “Endless Yard Sale”, which takes place annually the third weekend of June. The communities will join together with deals, antiques, collectibles, and more along a 100-mile stretch of highway between Roanoke Rapids and Dunn, NC. 

State Singing Convention: June 21-23 – The oldest Southern gospel convention in the nation happens at the Singing Grove in Benson and celebrates its 103rd anniversary in 2024. It includes three days of gospel music competition including amateur duets, trios, quartets, choirs, and family groups.

Bentonville Battlefield Heavy Thunder: June 22 – Hear the roar of cannon fire! Learn how soldiers loaded and fired weapons during the Civil War. Reenactors will be onsite portraying infantry and artillery Civil War soldiers. Firing demonstrations, historical discussions, and family activities will occur throughout the day; food trucks will be onsite! 

Four Oaks Acorn Festival: September 14th – a great family fun event held in Downtown Four Oaks each year, including children's activities, live entertainment, vendor fair, car show, and more.

Benson Mule Days: September 26-29 – The fourth Saturday of September has been home to Benson’s Mule Days festival for over 75 years. This four-day family-fun festival is packed with mule competition events, rodeos, carnival rides, arts and crafts, dances, and concerts. It also boasts the largest parade in North Carolina! 

Camp Flintlock colonial band plays at the Four Oaks Acorn Festival.

Railroad Days Festival: October 4-6 – Join the fun in Downtown Selma as the town celebrates its railroad heritage for a full weekend. The annual event will offer its regular fare, including live entertainment, vendors, food, rides, and a parade. 

Sonlight Farms: October – This locally-owned farm offers fall fun for the season with corn mazes, hay rides, giant slides, pumpkins, a climbing wall, peddle carts, farm animals, and more on Saturdays throughout the month. 

Clayton Fear Farm: October – Known all over the state as a regional “scream park” this haunted attraction offers over 10 unique scary experiences with one admission. Open multiple nights a week through the month of October. Not for the faint of heart!

Historic Downtown Smithfield Ghost Walk: October 24 – Small groups will be guided through the cemetery where costumed reenactors will tell stories about famous (and perhaps infamous) local persons buried there. Previous featured ghosts include Percy Flowers, Ava Gardner, and Governor Gabriel Johnston. 

Clayton Harvest Festival: October 24-27 – With roots dating back to 1951, the Clayton Harvest Festival is one of the largest festivals in Johnston County. It includes a midway with fair rides, games and food, Clayton’s largest vendor fair, a classic car show, tractor show, and bike show, as well as local performances. 

Bentonville Battlefield Fall Festival: October 26 – Bring the family and celebrate fall at Bentonville Battlefield! See demonstrations of historic trades and activities. Also don’t miss wagon rides, old timey kids games, crafts and activities, community groups, and much more! Bring a blanket or chair and listen to live music. Food trucks will be onsite!

Ferris Wheel at Clayton Harvest Festival held every year in Clayton, NC.

Meadow Lights: November and December – The largest and oldest Christmas light display in Eastern NC. Family owned and operated, started more than 40 years ago, enjoy lights on over 30 acres with a train ride through 10+ acres, a carousel, and an old-fashioned candy store. 

Lights on the Neuse: November and December – Boyette’s Farm becomes a winter wonderland. View Christmas lights by hayride, visit with Santa in the 3D Christmas Barn, then stand by the fire to warm up and roast marshmallows to make s’mores. 

Christmas Lights on the Farm: November and December – One of JoCo’s newer light displays but a local favorite already. Enjoy a hayride through Christmas Town to the Field of Lights display; visit Santa and his friends, plus music and concessions. 

Bentonville Christmas Open House: December 7 – Experience the Harper House as a family residence, not as a Civil War field hospital. Tour the home of John and Amy Harper as it may have been during a Civil War Christmas. Come enjoy the beauty of a 19th century Christmas aglow with candlelight. Also enjoy period refreshments in the kitchen and festive music by a warm campfire. Do not miss your chance to experience Christmas by candlelight at Bentonville Battlefield! 

Tractor ride through the lights at Boyette Farm's Lights on the Neuse

Again, for a current listing of events in Johnston County throughout the year visit johnstoncountync.org/events