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JCVB Blog

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau BLOG is published weekly with news and feature articles on visiting the county.
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Ham & Yam Time Again

Ham & Yam Time Again


It's time for the Smithfield Ham & Yam Festival in Downtown Smithfield, scheduled for May 6th with a wealth of activities for the entire family.  For the complete schedule of events and all things Ham & Yam, visit the official visitor website for the festival, www.hamandyam.com.


Ham History


The Ham & Yam Festival is a celebration of the agricultural history of Johnston County. The area was once a rural farmland where ham producers and sweet potato growers made a living. Because of this, the focus of the festival remains food. Attendees can find many varieties of hams and yams at the festival – barbecue from the cook-off, country ham biscuits, sweet potato cheesecake pies, country ham pimento cheese, sweet potato smoothies, sweet potato lemonade, baked sweet potatoes, sweet potato funnel cake, and more! If you don’t know the history of the Ham & Yam festival you should read an older, but still relevant article, by Smithfield native Emily Wallace. You can access it here. If you do know the history of the Ham & Yam festival, then you know that this will be the 33rd year.

A lady doesn’t divulge her age, but I will say that the Ham & Yam Festival has been going on longer than I’ve been alive, which means the Ham & Yam festival has been a staple of my life as a Johnston County native. I can see in my interest and anticipation for the festival how I’ve aged over the years. As a child, my joy in attending the festival was an impending glee regarding what wonders I could persuade my mother to buy me: sand art, a princess ribbon crown, possibly something I could have monogramed. As an adult, I take pleasure in a slow perusal of the vendors, looking for locally-crafted things I could use in my house: oh, look, handmade kitchen towels… I’ll take 8, thanks. Growing up has some hard truths to it. Maybe this year I’ll buy a flowing, sparkly ribbon crown just to prove a point to myself.


Family Fun in the Triangle


Ham & Yam is also about arts and entertainment. There are craft vendors, as well as games and rides, a 5K race, a What’s That Yam Thing? Contest, pig races, and more. Three stages include performances throughout the day, including performances by Nantucket at 2:30 p.m. and The Ultimate Eagles Tribute – On The Border at 7:00 p.m.

See you soon in Downtown Smithfield! conveniently located near I-95 and Highway 70, just 30 minutes from downtown Raleigh.

 

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Looking Forward to Spring in JoCo

Looking Forward to Spring in JoCo

 

 

 

 

 

 


1. Picking strawberries. This activity is perfect for families with little ones. Johnston County has a few working farms that open their fields to pickers, or just show up and buy them pre-picked by the bucket. Click here for a list of berry farms and farmer's markets sure to have this sweet, red fruit.

 

2. With the weather turning warm and breezy, Spring is a great time to enjoy the Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail. In the Spring months our family-owned, award-winning vineyards are green with grapes growing on the vine and waiting for the late Summer harvest. Sit on the porch and enjoy a chilled glass of wine and take home a bottle of your favorite. Don't forget that April is NC Beer Month. Johnston County's breweries will have special release beers and great weekend events happening in celebration. Visit the Beer, Wine, Shine Trail website to learn how to travel along the trail and then click on each trail location's website for more information on events and products.

 

3. For parents of young, energetic kids it's been a long winter of being cooped-up indoors due to the weather. Take the family outside to explore, play, and learn. The Neuse River also offers an excellent opportunity for canoers and kayakers. For a list of places in Johnston County to hike, bike, and play visit our Nature & Recreation page.




4. Explore Johnston County's Downtown areas. All of our historic downtowns are very walk-able with shops, restaurants, and museums. You never know what sort of unique treats your might find, like the Hills of Snow snow cone which is a local, seasonal favorite - opening in March. Spring also starts our festival season. You can learn more about all our events here.




 

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Fear and Fun can be Found in Johnston County this October

Fear and Fun can be Found in Johnston County this October


The Clayton Fear Farm has been run by Boyette Family Farms for years and is the Triangle area's only scream park. This means that the Fear Farm isn't just a haunted house or maze, but a spooky destination with 7 uniquely terrifying haunted attractions. You could spend hours being scared to death!

This year’s frightening features offer the opportunity to pick your scare. Will it be the dark corn maze, the spooky woods, the terrifying school house, or a trip into a black hole? Be sure to bring your friends along, if you bring enough there’s a group rate. Ticket pricing lets you pick a little scare or a whole lot of terror; tickets are available for all attractions or on a per attraction basis. Check out the Clayton Fear Farm schedule on their website for dates and times.

Night time scare attractions are recommended for kids ages 12 and up. However, you can also visit Boyette’s during the day for non-scary Halloween fun with younger kids. There are hayrides, a playground, a corn maze, pumpkin picking, games, and other activities. Open through October on Saturdays from 10:00AM to 5:00PM and Sundays 1:00PM to 5:00PM.


New to Johnston County, in Kenly, is Sonlight Farms, offering a corn maze as well as bounce houses, hayrides, fall games, and fun props for family photo ops. There is even a smaller maze for the little ones to have fun in. Open every weekend in October on Fridays from 5PM to 9PM and Saturdays 3PM to 9PM.

Visit the Sonlight Farms website for more information and location. Sonlight is owned and operated by locals Joshua and April Phillips, who love the fall and wanted to create a place on their farm that family, friends, and visitors could enjoy everything the season has to offer. They hope you make a Sonlight visit a part of your family’s fall traditions.


Smith's Nursery and Produce Farm runs a pumpkin patch every October on their sprawling family farm. Not only can you get a pumpkin for carving but you can explore the farm which has hayrides, animals, a sunflower field, a pond, and even bee hives. Be sure to take the family to the Smith’s Fall Festival on October 22nd from 10:00AM to 3:00PM. There will be all the usual fall activities listed above plus horseback rides, music, bbq, a firetruck demo, face painting, and more. Visit their Facebook event page for more information.

Lazy O Farm in Smithfield also offers fall fun on the farm experiences for kids and families. The best time to go is Saturday October 29th from 2:00PM to 5:00PM for their Trick or Treating in the Maze event. This is a non-scary event for the little ones with animals, hayrides, a playground, and even a new Fairy Tale Trail offered this year. For more information on the event like location and cost, visit the Facebook event page.


Wilson’s Mills Pumpkin Festival will take place on October 8th from 10:00AM to 4:00PM at the Wilson’s Mills Town Hall. This is a family friendly event with vendors, children's activities, dunking booth, music, food, and much more! There will be a 5k Run/Walk for the Sue Daniels Memorial and Backpack Buddies, as well as a charity car show. A day of fun for everyone and admission is free!


For the lovers of fall who are over 21, plan to hang out at a local brewery, beer store, or your own back yard with a cold one in hand this October. Our Johnston County craft breweries have you covered. Deep River Brewing is known for their Fall and Winter seasonals, one of which is a Pumpkin Pie Porter with all the spices you associate with Fall. The other is a show-stopper brewed in the style of a Belgian Dubbel with local Johnston County sweet potatoes and toasted marshmallows going into the brew. It's called the JoCo White Winter. Yum! Double Barley Brewing has put some rock n' roll into their seasonal beer called Gourd Rocker Imperial Pumpkin Porter. This is a rich, creamy, nicely spiced beer like many other delicious fall seasonal beers. Except that in true Double Barley fashion this craft brew comes in at a 9.4% ABV. That's why it's called gourd rocker!

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JoCo Has Tons of Festivals You'll FALL in Love With This Autumn

JoCo Has Tons of Festivals You'll FALL in Love With This Autumn

Summer vacations are over, the kids are back in school and you are looking for fun-filled weekend trips close to home to enjoy...and Johnston County fits the bill. Starting in September visitors will find many unique festivals and events to enjoy, and several that honor our agricultural heritage.
Mule Contests During Festival
Benson Mule Days 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. For over 60 years, this festival has hosted Mule Competitions, rodeos, art festivals, midways and carnival rides and one of the largest parades in the state of North Carolina. Over 2,000 horses and mules will ride in the Saturday morning parade which over 10,000 people attend each year. If you are a horse or mule enthusiast and would like to ride in this year's parade, learn more on the event website, www.bensonmuledays.com. Admission is charged for carnival rides and rodeos. This year's Mule Days will take place the 22nd through the 25th of September.

The Clayton Harvest & Music Festival will be September 17th starting at 9:00AM. Enjoy the Kid's Corner, Safety City, Health & Fitness Village, Arts at The Wagner, over 200 vendors, classic car show, food, musical entertainment on The Main Stage, carnival rides and more. Keep up with their Facebook event page for on-going information.

Other September events include the St. Ann International Food Festival, a Deep River Beer Dinner with CJ's Street Food, and a Monster Truck Throwdown at GALOT Motorsports Park.


LoBoys in a Pumpkin Patchoking into October for things to do you may consider the Annual Selma Railroad Days Festival, always the first Saturday in October. Railroad Days includes a 5K run, parade, crafts, food, children's area and a variety of entertainment. Admission is FREE. For more information visit www.visitselma.org. If you love beer and bluegrass, then the second Saturday in October will have you sipping and singing along. The 5th Annual Shindig Music Festival will take place on the 8th in Clayton. The festival features 10 Americana and Bluegrass genre bands on 2 stages. You can read the band line-up and get tickets here.

October is bursting like a full pumpkin patch with other events for families like the Wilson's Mills Pumpkin Festival, the Broadslab Shine & Shop Handmade & Vintage Market, and the Clayton Piano Festival. Not to mention, tons of Halloween events later in the month. Don't forget about the many family-owned farms across Johnston County offering pumpkin patches, hayrides, and even spooky evening activities for adults. You can find their activities on our calendar of events as well. Click here to view the events calendar. In addition, you can call our office for a FREE visitors guide at 1-800-441-7829.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Perfect Tomato Sandwich is a Simple One

The Perfect Tomato Sandwich is a Simple One

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 in Raleigh as the spring and summer crops are being harvested which starts with sweet strawberries in April and blueberries in June and July. By the time August rolls around, the bounty is rich and plentiful with corn, peaches, okra, 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 simple just isn't your thing, try for a bit of avocado on there. Or, turn two recipes into one by substituting the ripe red tomatoes on your sandwich for fried green ones. Yum!

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 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 and other summer fruits and vegetables, we hope you try some of the recipes we have on our site 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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Beer Wine & Shine Trail

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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.

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Meeting Planners

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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?

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Group Tour Operators

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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.

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Hotel Packages

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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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FREE TRAINING

 

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