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The Johnston County Visitors Bureau BLOG is published weekly with news and feature articles on visiting the county.

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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A Potter. A Preacher. A Process.

A Potter. A Preacher. A Process.

"Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message." Jeremiah 18:12

As a child in Duplin County, Frank Grubbs remembers digging in the clay at creek beds to mold little works of art. Of course, at the time, he didn't have a wheel or a kiln, but he was a persistent potter. His little hands would work the clay into what he imagined and then eventually the rain would wash it away. Grubbs has always been artistically inclined. But his art has evolved rather slowly in iterations that parallel the stages of his life. From his small creek-clay creations to his obsession with modeling clay in high school art class, to his senior year at Atlantic Christian College when he found himself in an Intro to Ceramics class.

A life-long career in the ministry has rivaled a life-long passion for pottery. The latter of which was truly sparked during a field trip during the Intro to Ceramics class, "it was a field trip to the studio of Dan Finch Pottery. He had a studio in an old converted tobacco barn. I knew one day I was gonna be a potter with an emphasis on wheel thrown pottery." This conviction led Grubbs to buy his first wheel and kiln in 1978, he still has both. After 41 years in the ministry, and counting, he is getting more serious about pottery. Not just about selling it or making a business out of it, serious about the art itself and the joy he finds in it.

"It's like Christmas morning every time I open the kiln, when that feeling goes away I'll quit." I asked him what he meant by that, "pottery is an ancient art that has evolved over time through wonderful accidents discovered by potters before me along the way. And yet no two pieces of pottery are ever truly identical. Even with all the controls and knowledge and experience, I have no idea what I'm gonna get when I open the kiln. Even if I repeat the process exactly, a piece of pottery can emerge different from the piece before it."

"Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." Isaiah 64:8

What I took away from my time in Frank Grubb's studio, which exists between his home and a barn out back, is that pottery is in fact a process. It goes a little something like this: raw clay to some sort of formation, to a kiln firing to a glaze application, to a glaze firing and then finally any sealing or setting. But Grubbs says he has never been very comfortable with glazing, and a lot of the work he does, and continues to experiment with, is called alternative firing. This includes barrel firing, pit firing, and a method called raku. The last of which involves decorating the pot while it is still hot from the kiln (and when I say hot I mean over 1,000 degrees hot). Grubb's pottery is most known locally for his unique application of horse hair during the raku process but you can really add anything - other types of hair, sugar, alcohol, or even feathers.

Grubbs says that raku is about careful temperature regulation, "if the pot is too hot the horse hair bounces off and disintegrates. If the pot is too cold the hair simply melts into the pot without leaving a mark. I have found that the best temperature range is between 1150-1200 degrees."

Walking around the house and studio is an amazing experience, with so many different shapes, styles, and colors of pottery jumping out at you. You can actually see everything for yourself tomorrow, Saturday, December 5th. For the past 2-3 years Grubbs has done an Open House and this year it will be at his home. You can show up any time from 10:00AM to 9:00PM. The address is 101 Cobblestone Court Smithfield, NC 27577. And it's the perfect season to purchase pottery as a gift. You will be able to purchase a truly unique piece of art during the Open House to give a friend or family member. If you are reading this from another town or state and would like to purchase your very own piece of Frank Grubbs pottery, then good news... he ships! You can email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A preacher who is a potter. Or a potter who is a preacher? Both take patience. Both instill a sense of wonderment over works wrought.  Frank Grubbs is both talented and extremely passionate about his art. It was mesmerizing to hear him talk with such enthusiasm. It made me want to try pottery. To make something with my hands. Owning a piece of pottery, crafted with hands that pour love into its making, is probably as close as I'm going to get though. But you can get that close too. Tomorrow. At the Frank Grubbs' Pottery Open House.

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Stanfield's Stores a Little Bit of the Past in the Present

Stanfield's Stores a Little Bit of the Past in the Present

Stanfield's Stores a Little Bit of the Past in the Present

In 1914 it was Massengill's Store & Warehouse. Stanfield's General Store

In 1944 it was RA Temple's O-Kay Groceries.

In 1965 it was Austin's General Store.

Now Stanfield's General Store, this piece of real estate in downtown Four Oaks, NC has been a rural destination of supplies and sustenance for the people of southern Johnston County for decades.

Before the birth of super-markets and mega-stores, the local general store was where life's necessities were acquired. Sometimes stretching across multiple store fronts, general stores had hardware materials, farm supplies, groceries, toys, cleaning products, clothing, and candy. Because of this, general stores were also normally a community's hub of activity, of social interaction, and of gossip.

David Stanfield kept all this in mind when he opened Stanfield's General Store a few months ago after purchasing three connected store fronts on Main Street. Along with some hardware supplies and lawn care products, he carries delightfully unique arts and crafts, food stuffs, drinks, toys, and jewelry. All of these products are made locally. David said he wanted to highlight and support local craftsmen, "I also wanted products in my store that you couldn't get anywhere else."

Good Things Are in Store

Stanfield's General Store Shelves
Since its grand opening, Standfield's has welcomed shoppers from all over the county and beyond. So far the store only exists within one store front space. This leaves David with two other spaces to expand into or do something completely different with. No definitive plans have been made yet. As for growing in-store events, Stanfield's may soon have bluegrass jam session nights. Or possibly days where you can meet local craftsman of the products you can purchase in the store. In the meantime I recommend the cheese straws and the glass bottle Coke's. 

The possibilities for expansion are endless. Among them the opportunity for general stores like Stanfield's to once again become the hub of social interaction for the community. A place where families gather to play music together, to purchase necessities, to chat over life's ups and downs, and to find what glaringly-lit box stores can't offer - a sense of community and a feeling of pride that only shopping local can give you.

You can visit Stanfield's at 105 N. Main St., Four Oaks, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Reach them by phone at 919-963-9607 or search “Stanfield's General Store” on Facebook.

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Local Artist Conspires to Take Clayton on a JOURNEY

Local Artist Conspires to Take Clayton on a JOURNEY

Local Artist Conspires to Take Clayton on a JOURNEY


Anyone venturing down Main Street in Clayton, NC last Wednesday night, June 24th, would have heard the familiar notes of an iconic rock song. A song that stretches across generations and genres with a message, Don't Stop Believing. The music was coming from the front lawn of a unique and chic newcomer to downtown Clayton called Wine on Main. But anyone not in attendance at the event would have never known that the music cutting through the sultry southern night and spilling out into the street was not a recording, nor was it the easily recognizable tones of singer and one time Journey front-man Steve Perry. It was the mellow tones of the songs creator, a talented musician and lyricist, and a founding member of Journey, Jonathan Cain. A god of classic rock sitting in a small spot light in the front lawn of a wine shop, playing to an intimate crowd of lucky and enthralled attendees.
Jonathan Cain
As one of those lucky attendees I had to take a moment to pinch myself as I sat less than 6 feet away from a member of one of my favorite bands of all time. My body feeling the minute vibrations as the piano notes spilled forth from the singular amplifier sitting on the porch beside where I had perched to watch Mr. Cain's set. But he wasn't just there to play, he was there to sign bottles of wine from his own label - a collaboration with De La Montanya Winery. As I listened to the melody of Open Arms wash over me I wondered how this event has all come together.

Since that magical night last week I have discovered that the answer to my question is Clark Hipolito. Clark is a local Clayton artist and part owner of Wine on Main, along with Mandy Tamplin and Temple Phipps. His story is an interesting one that inexplicably brings together art, guitars, wine, and Journey.

Evolution of the Artist

Clark Hipolito grew up in New Jersey, but his career as an artist really started when  he went to work at MTV in New York. Clark said, "working at MTV was pretty much the beginning of it all. Every single day I would meet a new rockstar and being around that kind of environment, it only was natural that I’d never be able to work a normal job ever again." He started out working on the sets at MTV- first doing graphics, then painting murals, and later having fine art shows featuring his paintings. Clark's work has been featured on the set of shows like Sex in the City and Dawson's Creek.

Living up in NYC was great, but very intense and fast paced, and in 1994 Clark was ready for a change. He considered moving to Atlanta or Charleston, but after doing some research and looking at the growth trends of the time he ended up in downtown Raleigh. Upon moving to Raleigh he started spending lots of time in Wrightsville Beach to blow off steam. At the time Wilmington was still a big hub for the film industry,and he made lots of great connections there as well.

"The evolution of my career has been very unique," Clark says. As unique as the evolving use of materials he uses as his canvas. Clark renders amazing works of art on surfboards, guitars, and even skateboards. When asked about the evolutionary process of moving from an aesthetic canvas to a practical one, he said it happened because of a personal interest he took in surfing, "at some point after I moved to North Carolina I went on a business trip to Charleston - and I came across Folly Beach and saw the waves there. I went to the local surf shop and bought a cheap used surfboard, that was covered in dings and duck tape, and I went surfing."  

When he returned to Raleigh he took it upon himself to restore the board and in the process he ended up putting a wood grained faux finish on it as well as some decorative scroll work. From that moment on every time he'd take it out to the beach people would ask him about it, "a lot of them wanted me to paint their own board and then things just snowballed from there." Journey Guitar

As Clark remembers it, "I started doing art shows using surfboards and skateboards as my canvas. I garnered lots of national recognition and great press from around the world for my work. I was getting lots of high profile clients- like Pink, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, and pro athletes like Mario Williams. At one point my friends from Line Up Magazine commissioned me to paint a guitar that they wanted signed by all the rockstars performing at the Bonaroo Music Festival. I painted it, then went to the festival and met with so many awesome performers like Robert Plant, Ben Folds, Phil Lesh, and Jack Johnson."

He adds, "We ended up taking the guitar to San Diego for a fundraiser sponsored by Line UP Magazine and Fuel TV at the Hard Rock Hotel and got even more recognition. I started getting commissions left and right for the guitars and surfboards, and I haven’t slowed down since."

Indeed that sounds like quite the whirlwind. Clark was introduced to Clayton when he started dating his friend and business partner, Temple Phipps, who owns a dog grooming business, Doggy Do’z, located in downtown. This was the catalyst for his interest in the area. He speaks fondly of this little piece of Johnston County, "after spending time here I’ve really fallen in love with the people and the amazing sense of community in Clayton. Main Street reminds me of how downtown Raleigh made me feel 20 years ago. We ended up opening Wine on Main a few months ago, and haven’t looked back.  Clayton just keeps getting better and better every day."

Wine, Art, and Music Meet in Clayton

And so we have come to the part in the story that wine, and specifically Wine on Main, enters in. This classy little wine shop did in fact burst onto the downtown business scene a few months ago. They offer tastings, classes, musical events, trunk shows, and all other manner of unique happenings. I asked Clark how Jonathan Cain ended up being one of those musical events.

It turns out, that's a rather short story. Clark has been the featured artist for The Triangle Wine Experience for the last 15 years. Along the way he's met lots of great wine makers and other people associated with the wine industry. A few months ago Clark got a call from a good friend, "Ziggy Eschilman, who’s a  radio personality in Napa, called me and told me someone wanted to meet me because they really liked my work, and that this person was coming to North Carolina to meet with me."

It turned out to be Jonathan Cain from Journey. Jonathan has his own wine label - Finale Wines - and he had heard of Clark's talent. Jonathan ended up giving Clark a couple of guitars to paint and in return, Clark asked him to come back for a visit and do an event at Wine On Main. The idea was to unveil one of the painted guitars and do a bottle signing, and possibly a performance. "He actually said yes and I was elated," said Clark. Who wouldn't be?!

As a Journey fan, I of course wanted to know what working with Jonathan Cain was like. Clark said, "meeting him was incredible, we hit it off right away! He’s a really cool guy and filled with cool stories about his life, music, and song writing.  After our original meeting here in NC, I flew out to Las Vegas to talk to him more about the project, and after spending more quality time with he and his wife, Paula White Cain, we decided that one of the guitars would end up in a glass display case at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas." Wow! From a wine shop in Clayton, NC all the way to Las Vegas, Nevada. What a heck of a journey. Sorry, I couldn't help myself. Wine on Main Group Shot

Clark wasn't wrong about Cain having some amazing stories. During his 30 minute or so set at Wine on Main he reminisced about his inspiration when writing iconic songs like Don't Stop Believing, Open Arms, and Faithfully.

I asked Clark about his own inspiration when it comes to his art. As someone who has had a career spanning various forms of artistic expression, what is his favorite? He gives an unbiased answer, "I honestly love it all! Designing nightclubs and restaurants can be very gratifying because it can encompasses all aspects of art and design. I get to create my dream environments and as part of that interior landscape I’ll usually incorporate a mural I've painted or use my surfboard and guitar art as part of the decor. But if I had to really narrow it down- I think I like painting surfboards and guitars most… at least for now." You can see some examples of Clark's art in Wine on Main.

To bring it full circle, I asked Clark what his favorite Journey song was. The answer - Stone in Love. An excellent choice, though he mentioned it was a tough call. I prefer Separate Ways myself. Speaking of going separate ways, I was buzzing with energy when I left Wine on Main last week after personally thanking Mr. Cain for visiting and sharing with him a story about my love for Journey music. Walking to my car I was again struck by the hidden gems that can exist in the fabric of small town life. The music of Journey on a quiet evening. The passion and drive behind Clark Hipolito's art. The realization that small, growing towns like Clayton, and others in Johnston County, sometimes surprise us with what they have to offer. And, like Clark said, things are getting better and better every day. Hey, don't stop believing.

Photo Captions in Order of Appearance:
1. Jonathan Cain plays piano while discussing his lyrical
inspirations. Photo courtesy of Krisp Photography.
2. The guitar Clark painted for Jonathan, photo courtesy of Clark.
3. Clark Hipolito pictured holding the painted guitar accompanied by Temple Phipps, Mandy Tamplin,
   Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod and wife, with Jonathan Cain and his wife Paula.  Photo courtesy of Krisp Photography.

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Sculpture Trail lands in Downtown Clayton

Eye of the Hurricane Sculpture Eye of the Hurricane Sculpture in Downtown Clayton.

If you have walked or driven around Downtown Clayton these past few months you have probably noticed the different art sculptures located around town. The sculptures are part of the first-ever Downtown Clayton Sculpture Trail, a project The Clayton Public Art Advisory Board with the support of the Clayton Town Council has established.

Balancing Spheres sculpture Balancing Spheres Sculpture in Downtown Clayton.

These sculptures were created by artists from across the state and put up to visually enhance the downtown area. There are a total of seven pieces on display and they will continue to be up for a year, with the intention to get different submissions next spring to take their place.

A unique detail to this trail is that as you are walking around taking a closer look at these works of art you can use your phone to scan the code on the plaques to watch the individual artists videos and learn more about the sculpture that you are standing right in front of! This interactive detail makes it feel like the artists are taking the tour with you and giving you first-hand details.

With works of art titled things like Balancing Spheres, Geyser, and Eye of the Hurricane (my personal favorite), the Downtown Clayton Sculpture Trail is worth taking some time to enjoy. For more details about the Sculpture Trail visit www.townofclaytonnc.org.

While you are admiring the sculptures around town be sure to look around and get the full small town experience. There are plenty of good restaurants, shops, a brewery, and festivals. For more about Downtown Clayton and lists of things to do while visiting head to www.visitclayton.org.

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Beer Wine & Shine Trail

beer wine and shine trail logo

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.


Meeting Planners

meeting venue with presentation screen

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?


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.


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