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The Johnston County Visitors Bureau BLOG is published weekly with news and feature articles on visiting the county.
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Nappy Roots to Headline Mondo Roots

Nappy Roots to Headline Mondo Roots

Mondo Roots is bringing art and music back to the streets of Clayton this summer. The festival is in its 2nd year, aiming to celebrate diversity and empower the community. On Saturday June 3rd, Main Street and will be full of local artists selling their art, and a select few will be doing live demonstrations. In addition, musical acts will be preforming throughout the day with a DJ spinning in between sets. This all culminates in the headlining act at 7:25 PM which this year will be Nappy Roots – a best-selling hip-hop group that emerged in the early 2000s and has been cranking out music ever since.

Craft beer, wine, and food truck vendors will be on-hand throughout the day. The event officially starts at noon and goes till around 8:00PM. Pets, children, and sundry are welcome. This is a not-to-be-missed festival drawing locals and visitors to Downtown Clayton. I spoke to one of Mondo’s organizers, Dave Brown, about the festival. Dave owns Earth Plow Productions and works to secure the bands for the event. Mondo Roots is a Clayton Visual Arts event.

Nappy Roots?! Amazing! How did such a headliner come about?

Nappy Roots was always who I envisioned headlining this festival from its inception.  The goal of Mondo Roots was always to help unify a community and be true to our “roots” here in this part of the state.  Nappy is such a great fit on all counts. They are humble, they rap about things that are very familiar to this area of the state, and they have a very positive message, and to boot, they are just all around great people.  


 
Shindig is another music-centric festival in Clayton in the Fall and has had Grammy-winning headliners. Do you feel that booking higher-caliber talent causes attendance growth or that organic festival growth allows for the attraction of big talent?

I believe they work hand in hand.  There is a balance that has to happen, we have always prided ourselves on getting the right headliner for the right crowd size estimation and genre.  Of course, we have been very fortunate with both of our festivals getting great talent that peaked at the right time.  We always have our eye on the “next big thing”.  
 
You work to blend musical genres at Mondo, what are you looking for when you start the signing process with the line-up every year?

Originality, relevance, and musicianship!  Mondo gives us the ability to really stretch the boundaries of genres, whereas the Shindig is Americana and Bluegrass, Mondo is about every culture and every genre so the canvas is blank so to speak for choosing the music.
 
Tell me a little bit about the VIP package this year.

Well, if you want to get a chance to meet and mingle with the bands, and if you like free beer samples provided by Foothills and most importantly if you like shade and comfort the VIP tent is for you.  There was a strong demand last year for a “next level” seating area with some amenities, we answered that call by providing the VIP tent.  $20 and you are in, best deal in town, AND the proceeds go to House of Hope – a local charity that helps abused and troubled girls.
 
Beyond the music, Mondo is a celebration of the arts. What's happening this year at the festival as far as art goes?

We have so many artists there it is going to be pretty impressive for our town.  The CVA has done a great job jurying the artist row, and making sure that we have truly handcrafted original works of art.  We also have a feature artist area where some remarkable artists in the area are going to be performing live art demonstrations.  Those include Clark Hipolito, a Clayton-Raleigh area native. We’ll also have Victor Knight III out again, he is a very accomplished and well known graffiti artist in the area.  They will join 3 others on the main lawn for an all-day demo.


 
What's a good estimate for how attendance has grown from year to year? How many people came last year?

We estimated our attendance of just over 1,500 last year, we expect a fairly large jump this year as have added more to the musical lineup and plus the natural maturation process that happens with festivals.  
 
Do you know where attendees are coming from? Local? Regional? Out of state?

Everywhere, I would say that a large portion are local, but I know we have people coming from Virginia, South Carolina and even Tennessee this year.  That’s what happens when you put high grade talent on a stage for free and for a good cause.
 
What makes Clayton the perfect place to host festivals like this?

I think the biggest thing that makes it a good spot to throw festivals is its proximity to Raleigh and other surrounding areas.  Plus, since the beginning of our festival days Clayton as a community has been very supportive.  In addition, being tucked in a center of a town with historic buildings acting as a backdrop gives us a great canvas to paint this festival on!  

For more information visit www.mondoroots.com. The festival itself and all entertainment is free, but if you’re interested in the VIP experience go here.

 

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Up-coming Event Celebrates JoCo Art & Food

Up-coming Event Celebrates JoCo Art & Food


The Johnston County Arts Council will host its eighth Annual Art and Food Festival Gala on March 16, 2017 at the Paul A. Johnston Auditorium on the Johnston Community College Campus. The event is from 6:00-8:00PM and tickets can be purchased in advance by calling Executive Director of the Arts Council, Darlene Williford, at 919-738-9622; she noted that if she is unavailable when you call to be sure and leave a message stating you want tickets. Or you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Tickets are $40 each or 2 for $75.

The fundraiser will generate monies to assist the Arts Council with funding for the 2016-2017 Artists-in-the-Schools program, to provide scholarships for Johnston Community College students studying Fine Arts, and to fund free community programs including: visual artists paint-outs, Johnston Health art exhibits, and Music for the Lunch Bunch.


Showcasing Local Artists & Chefs


There will also be an art show for the event. Artwork will be on display and available for purchase from Johnston County’s most talented visual artists. There were over 50 pieces in the categories of painting, photography, and pottery in last year’s show.

In addition, attendees will be treated to delicious sample dishes from twelve to fifteen of Johnston County’s finest restaurants. And participating restaurants will compete for awards like Best Entrée, Best Dessert, Best Presentation, Best Side Dish, Most Original Dish, and Best Appetizer. Attendees will have the opportunity to vote for ‘People’s Choice Award’ of Best Restaurant.  Participating restaurants last year included Anthony’s Pizza and Pasta, Parkside Cafe, The Serving Spoon, Sherry’s Signature Cheesecakes, and Simple Twist.


Last Year’s Winners


Winners last year included artists Christer Berg, Mary Jones, Kyle Wilson, and Frank Grubbs while restaurant winners included Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta, The Serving Spoon, and Parkside Café. For the full list of 2016 winners please click here to view our blog on last year’s event.

The mission of the Johnston County Arts Council is to provide quality opportunities in the arts for every Johnston County resident. For more information on their events and initiatives please visit their Facebook page.

For a list of events happening in Johnston County, including arts and entertainment events like this one, please visit johnstoncountync.org/events.

 

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Rebekah Todd Brings the Hustle in New Album

Rebekah Todd Brings the Hustle in New Album

UPDATE: Since I spoke with her last, back in 2015, Rebekah Todd has been hard at work hustling her way to new music on a full-length studio album (her second). She has been meeting with people in the industry, executing a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the making of her album, writing, recording, and producing said album, planning an album release tour, and then after all that working to actually release the album. That’s where I found her when I reached out to catch-up.Rebekah Todd Drops New Single Called Hustle

I like to keep up with our Johnston County talent. There are crazy amazing people from this area making waves in all sorts of artistic mediums. Rebekah was born and raised in Benson, but she calls Wilmington home now. And she swears that even if Crooked Lines is a huge hit (it will be) she’s not feeling the NYC, Nasheville, or LA vibe. Maybe we’ll keep this North Carolina gem right here in North Carolina. Crooked Lines will debut on the 17th of February, only 9 weeks away. If you want a taste of what the album will sound like you can listen to the single “Hustle”, released today exclusively on Spotify. You can also pre-order the album on iTunes or Amazon.

If you want to hear Rebekah live – she often tours under Rebekah Todd and The Odyssey because that’s the name of her full band – stay tuned to her website and the soon to be released dates for that album release tour I spoke of above. The closest she’ll come to JoCo is The Pour House in Raleigh. Her live shows are much like her new album – groovy and complex.

I asked her how she was feeling post-production and pre-release, “It’s been a blur of a year, but the album sounds amazing! I’m so pleased with it!” If “Hustle” is any indication, this album is going to take Rebekah places, and I couldn’t be happier for her. This musical soul has a salt of the earth quality thanks to her raising, one that the music industry could use more of. For example, for the top donors to her Kickstarter campaign she hand-crafted works of art to send them, thanking them for their support. Stay classy Rebekah, and keep hustling.


Originally posted July 10th, 2015

As I move through the dim atmosphere of the bar I look around at the sparse crowd of early arrivals - it's barely 9:30PM - I know who I am looking for but not sure if I'll know when I find her. Some people look different in person than what you image from promo pictures and YouTube videos. But, as I look to my right and find Rebekah Todd sitting at a booth with her band I am pleased to find that she looks exactly as you imagine her. The long cotton fringe sleeveless vest and the brown wool felt panama-esque hat on her head make her look like the love child of Stevie Nicks and Patti Smith. Appropriate given her musical chops.

Though many musicians can seem or actually are aloof, Rebekah is instantly warm and friendly while introducing me to her band and making me feel welcome in their circle. The noise of the bar fades to the background while we chat about music, muses, and Johnston County. For those of you not in the know, Rebekah Todd is from Benson, NC where she grew-up, in her own words, weird, "I was constantly trying to find ways to channel this creative energy I had." She admits that she had a few close friends but often preferred being alone with her latest project - painting, knitting, and papermaking to name a few. She recalls a funny story of using her mom's kitchen blenders in order to shred paper, adding water to make pulp, "she found me and her kitchen in a mess and was not any less mad when I simply explained that I was making my own paper".

It was this level of intense creativity that lead Rebekah to song-writing. She had been singing her whole life and writing music felt like an extension of that. It was her father who suggested a musical instrument, "he had a really good point," she says, "about having to rely on others to make the music, having to find a band or a partner. If I could play an instrument then I could be a singular act if I wanted to, it would lend me flexibility and autonomy. So he bought me a guitar." She was 16 at the time and her Dad's intuition paid off. By the time she went to college at East Carolina University she was able to make extra money playing gigs at local businesses - just her and her guitar.

While having an amazing repertoire of original songs - more on that in a minute - Rebekah's live shows include an impressive collection of covers. Songs like Superstition, and Rhiannon which is a tie for her favorite cover (the other favorite being The Thrill is Gone). I asked what sort of music had an early influence on her own sound, "classic rock, my Dad listened to a lot of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. I also love soul, like Aretha Franklin, so my own style is sort of a blend of rock, soul, and folk."

 I ask her about her newest album Roots Bury Deep, out February of last year, and how writing is going for the next album, "I wish I could be like those artists who are disciplined enough to write an hour every day, but I have to wait until I really feel it. That might mean going days without anything and then spending hours writing when the right feeling and inspiration comes over me."

What was her favorite song off the last album? "Wishing Well is very meaningful to me even though it isn't the most popular on the album." I make a mental note to give it another few listens. You should too. The sultry tones of Rebekah's voice that make covers like Rhiannon feel so right in her capable hands elevates the haunting lyrics of Wishing Well and takes the song to a whole new level.

I asked about a manager and she just shakes her head, "I do it all on my own." This seems dubious to me, with my miniscule knowledge of the music industry. How do you know what to do and who to talk to and how to negotiate things? That's my true technical talk right there. She just laughs, "I taught myself.  When I started I was just working for tips and now I've done 100 gigs this year alone - it's only July! I've learned how to self-manage and the terrain that goes along with that." Rebekah has in fact turned herself into a booking agent as a side job. It evolved out of her knowledge in self-booking; she had so many gigs coming in that she was having to pass them up and she had the thought to start booking them for other artists and friends (and getting a small portion of the cut, as booking agents do). Truly entrepreneurial. But, then, that's the new music business... sports isn't the only industry moving slowly towards a free agent model. A lot of artists do it all on their own. Her latest album was financially supported by fans and sponsors through Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a website that allows artists and other individuals to raise money for social campaigns or creative endeavors.

Rebekah Todd is often a lone act, just her and her guitar, but she switches it up a lot. As a group act she is Rebekah Todd and The Odyssey - her band. However she is currently touring with The Oblations, a band out of Chapel Hill, making them Rebekah Todd and The Oblations. She confided in me her dream celebrity collaboration would be Neil Young. This just makes me want to ask her to sing Heart of Gold. But instead I ask her if she has anything else she wants to tell me about her music, "I think I'm going to switch my guitar out for electric soon, go less acoustic. I'm ready to be edgy, add more rock to my soul." That sounds like something I'm ready to hear.

I ask her if she gets back to Benson these days with all the touring and what she loves about it. Her answer is wonderfully honest, "If you had asked me this question 5 or 6 years ago I would have had a different answer, but what I like most now about my hometown is the comfort of returning to the familiar. Benson never changes, not where it counts, and it's nice to be able to come back to that."

I asked her what place or business she misses the most, "it's crazy, but, El Charro. I cannot get chicken quesadillas like that anywhere else."

The deliciousness of Johnston County's unique Latino restaurant options seems like as good a topic as any to end on. This further confirms my growing notion by this point that not only is Rebekah Todd one heck of a musician, but a funny, kind, southern soul. If you haven't given this JoCo talent a try, please do. You can listen to all her music here, catch her video performances here, and get info about her latest tour dates here. Rebekah plays festivals and events in Johnston County from time to time - for a full list of events visit www.johnstoncountyevents.com.

Thanks for taking the time Rebekah, you rock!

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American Music Jubilee Christmas Show Is Here

American Music Jubilee Christmas Show Is Here

 

I love fall. I love the changing of the seasons. The magic in nature’s unseen and unheard signal to turn down her thermostat, bringing relief to those of us in the South tired of sweat-breaking temperatures. The second that the air in eastern North Carolina drops below 65 degrees and the breeze starts stirring the leaves, I throw open my windows and turn the HVAC unit OFF. Hello chilly air, hello sweaters and blankets and warm cups of coffee.

Much sooner then I would like the orange glow of pumpkins and the scent of cinnamon apples will give way to all things red and green and the fresh, clean, biting scent of winter air will settle in. My love for fall is eclipsed only by my love for Christmas. I mean, I LOVE Christmas. If I have my iPod on shuffle in the car and a Christmas song comes on, I don’t care if it’s April, I’ll let it play. Sometimes it takes more than one month to contain all you love about the holidays.

Thankfully, that’s why there is the American Music Jubilee in Selma, NC. Their Down Home Christmas Show starts November 5th of this year and will run through December 21st, which gives you plenty of time to experience the joy of the holidays through music and laughter.

A show at the American Music Jubilee is an evening of southern hospitality, great American music, and side-splitting comedy that will delight audiences of every age. Add a couple of surprise guests, like Santa and his friends, and this show is guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit!  A touch of Branson and a touch of Myrtle Beach, American Music Jubilee includes a ten member cast that skillfully combine comedy skits with traditional and modern Christmas music.  

The show normally begins at 1:40pm and 7:40pm, but we suggest checking the calendar and booking in advance to reserve your seat. Admission charges are $28.50 for adults with special pricing available for children, balcony seating, and groups of 20 or more. Groups should call ahead.

The reason the Jubilee starts their Christmas show in November is because so many people want to see it, and because some people like me want to experience a little Christmas before December 1st. Just remember to make the most out of your Down Home Christmas Show experience by exploring Selma before or after the show. Selma has 14 antique and specialty stores as well as outlet shopping – so you can get that Christmas shopping done a little early too.

Selma, NC is located along the I-95 Corridor at exit 97.  For more information and for tickets call 1-877-843-7839 or (919) 202-9927. You can also visit the website at www.amjubilee.com.

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Festival Celebrates Five Years of Making and Sharing Music

Festival Celebrates Five Years of Making and Sharing Music

 
The Clayton Piano Festival is celebrating their 5th season this Fall with an astounding line-up of artists. The season schedule of concerts will run October 14th through October 22nd. Organizers are expanding the festival to reach a larger community and have added additional events to celebrate this important anniversary. This year there will be six concerts with one at the Cary Arts Center and another at the Preston Woodall House in Benson, with the remaining events to be held in Clayton.

Both the Creative Director of the festival and a performer every year, Johnston County local Jonathan Levin is excited to showcase the growth of the festival as it enters year five, “Our goal over the years has been to share the joy and exhilaration that great music can bring in a fresh, new way each year, presenting a variety of top level classical artists from around the world.  I think at this point it’s become an anticipated cultural event in the area and we’re very pleased about that.”

The format of the Clayton Piano Festival is built on the premise of accessibility and interaction with the artist. As in past years, there will be intimate dinner concerts at smaller venues, and social “meet the artist” receptions following the concerts to enhance the experience for attendees.  There will be outreach programs to area schools to share the importance of music education and bring concert quality performances to more than 1,000 students.
Clayton Piano Festival Year Five Poster
This year’s concerts include a variety of music genres such as Ragtime and progressive rock.  Levin explains that “the idea is to show the full extent of what the piano can do, not just one discipline.” Performances this year include Rachael Flowers, a multi-talented instrumentalist and composer who lost her sight as an infant. According to Levin the festival is happy to have booked her, “we’re getting her right before she becomes famous. Racheal just had a Hollywood documentary made about her that is already making the film festival circuit.”

Levin, himself always modest, will be a can’t miss performance as well. Just last week he performed a solo recital debut at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Rorianne Schrade reviewed the performance for New York Concert Review and had this to say, “Showmanship, intelligence, more than ample pianism, and sensitive musicality are all wrapped up in one package in this young artist, so he should do quite well in his career.” This year’s festival line-up offers a unique chance to catch Jonathan in his hometown of Clayton.

Along with returning performers Jonathan Levin and Angelo Rondello, newcomer and renown ragtime pianist and composer Mill McNally at the Preston Woodall House and Russian pianist Azamat Sydykov at the Wagner House will be charming audiences with their performances. Which include dinner provided by the venue, and each will also include a reception to meet the artist.

The final gala will truly be a show stopper.  Hear five CPF artists perform, each sharing inspiring insights into a work with special personal significance for them.  Special guest, Mary Prescott, an adventurous, multi-genre artist, joins the others as she shares her unique voyage into learning the art of improvisation. To conclude the concert and the 5th season, all 5 artists will perform together on stage at the same time…on 5 pianos! With six hundred seats to fill, the organizers of the final concert are offering FREE tickets for children up to age 18, one for each paid adult ticket.

General ticket prices for Concerts with Dinner at The Wagner House and Preston Woodall House are $45.00 adult, $35.00 seniors, $25.00 students, concerts only $15.00 for adults and $5.00 students.  For the Sunday performance by Jonathan Levin at the Wagner House, tickets are $15.00 adults and $5.00 students/children.  The final concert performance featuring all five pianos will be $20.00 adults, $15.00 for seniors and military, and FREE for children under 18 years old. Tickets for the event are available at www.claytonpianofestival.org/schedule-tickets and tickets for the final performance may be purchased directly with The Clayton Center at www.theclaytoncenter.com.

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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

 

Check out what other travelers say about Johnston County, North Carolina on TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor
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