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JCVB Blog

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

Ava’s London Comes to Smithfield in New Exhibit

Ava’s London Comes to Smithfield in New Exhibit


The Ava Gardner Museum in Downtown Smithfield, NC unveiled a new exhibit on the 10th of December last week. The museum has displays that change annually so that visitors to the museum can see new items from the vast collection the museum curates of Ava’s clothes, costumes, photos, personal mementos, art, letters, and props. This year’s exhibit is called Ava Living in London and highlights Ava’s life in London from the movies she filmed there to her time as a permanent resident starting in 1968 up to her death in 1990. Ava Living in London exhibit

Close to 100 people attended the unveiling and ribbon-cutting ceremony including Ava’s great-niece Ava Carol Thompson and family, Ava’s niece Mary Edna Grantham, Smithfield Mayor Andy Moore, Smithfield Town Manager Mike Scott, Executive Director of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau Donna Bailey-Taylor, as well as Teresa Grant from the Johnston County Board of Education. Many of these people assisted in cutting the ribbon to officially unveil the exhibit. During the ceremony, Ava Gardner Estate Trustee and Museum Director Deanna Brandenberger presented a framed photo of Ava, gifted to the estate from the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences in London, to Ava Gardner Museum Board Chairman Rick Lotz in honor of this year’s international success. This aforementioned success stems from the recent honor Ava received as an English Heritage Blue Plaque recipient with multiple events in London surrounding the honor, which the Ava Gardner Trust and family members of Ava’s attended.


Ava Loved London and London Loved Her


Deanna Brandenberger, Director of the Ava Gardner Museum, states that, “The Ava Living in London exhibit is the grand finale of nearly three years of work to have Ava honored in London, to make connections in international communities, and to portray a side to her that people have rarely seen, because it was the most private time in her life. I am very grateful to have the chance to draw attention not only to Ava Gardner’s Museum & Estate, but also to the charities she still supports, and the communities of Smithfield, Johnston County, and North Carolina that she continues to promote as an ambassador of unique history and culture.”

The unveiling event even had a proper English tea, provided by local coffee shop Grapes & Grounds. The Ava Living in London exhibit is an avant-garde tableau which demonstrates digitally Ava’s prowess on the screen, but also portrays her at home and “out-and-about” in the city she loved so greatly! The museum has a great many items on loan just for this exhibit including a stunning evening gown from Harrod’s, personal make-up, and everyday items that carry the capricious charm with which Ava was recognized. Visitors to the Ava Gardner Museum will have the opportunity to view the Ava Living in London exhibit, included in the cost of admission, for the next year. 

Exterior to the Ava Gardner Museum
Johnston County Charm Meets London Chic


The new exhibit is the finishing touch on a whirl-wind Fall for Ava, her estate, and her museum. The trip to London involved events beyond the blue plaque dedication, including a collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum Clothworkers’ Centre to view their facility and the gifts Ava donated to them from her own collection – pieces that will more than likely be on display during the V&A museum’s 2017 fashion exhibit. Representatives of Ava’s trust also attended an evening banquet hosted by the state tourism team Visit North Carolina in downtown London and got to meet members of the film-making and tourism industry while representing Ava and North Carolina.

All these events created buzz for the opening of the exhibit, which Brandenberger said was apparent in the attendance at the unveiling, “The premiere exhibit had a wonderful turnout by our community. It was great to see people from different organizations, fans, partners in the business community, and people who work every day to bring Ava to life with their love and hard work come together for the event. We do it in the hopes that our visitors may continue to enjoy Ava for generations to come.”

Learn more about Ava and how to visit her museum at www.avagardner.org.  Make sure to follow the museum on Facebook and Twitter for current news.

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Ava Gardner Museum to Unveil New Exhibit in December

Ava Gardner Museum to Unveil New Exhibit in December


The Ava Gardner Museum in Downtown Smithfield, NC will unveil a new exhibit on the 10th of December. The museum has displays that change annually so that visitors to the museum can see new items from the vast collection the museum curates of Ava’s clothes, costumes, photos, personal mementos, art, letters, and props. If you have yet to see last year’s exhibit you have a few more weeks before it comes down. The current exhibit includes artifacts and information associated with Ava's friend and costar Omar Sharif, who sadly passed away last year. The exhibit also includes a tribute to her husband Frank Sinatra in honor of his 100th birthday and a commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Ava's death, both of which were observed last year.

This year’s exhibit will be titled “Ava Living in London” and will highlight Ava’s life in London from the movies she filmed there to her time as a permanent resident starting in 1968 up to her death in 1990. The unveiling event on the 10th will include a homage to a traditional English tea, sponsored by local business Grapes & Grounds and starting at 10am.

Though Ava is from Johnston County, she was also happy to call England home for many decades. She stated multiple times that it reminded her very much of North Carolina. “And strangely enough, England proved to be very much like North Carolina. The English use expressions I’ve never heard anyplace else but back home, so I felt comfortable with them right away,” quoted from Ava’s autobiography titled “Ava, My Story”.

The exhibit will include publicity shots from her time filming there, video from those films, and tableaus recreating iconic scenes from her life in London. Deanna Brandenberger, Director of the Ava Gardner Museum, states that it will be an exhibit like never before seen at the museum, “In conjunction with receiving the honor of the Blue Plaque in London, we have decided to uniquely portray Ava’s life in London where she lived 32 years.”

In Ava’s own words, traveling and living abroad had a profound effect on her life for the better, “Pandora [the film] got me outside these United States for the first time and introduced me to the two countries, England and Spain, where I was to spend much of the rest of my life. One trip abroad, honey, and I almost never looked back.”

The exhibit opening coincides with plans to recognize Ava at multiple events in London. As Brandenberger mentioned, The English Heritage will be dedicating a London Blue Plaque to Ava Gardner at her last home, 34 Ennismore Garden on November 4th, 2016 at 10am.  Last month the British Film Institute (BFI) honored Gardner at the famous London Film Festival during a screening of Seven Days in May in which she co-starred with Kirk Douglas, the BFI’s classical artist of the year. In addition, the renowned Victoria and Albert Museum’s Clothworkers’ Centre houses twelve of Ava’s couture fashions that were donated by Ava and her family. Some of the pieces are slated to become part of the Balenciaga exhibit that will be put on display for the public next Spring.

The Ava Gardner Museum is located at 325 E. Market Street, Smithfield, NC and additional announcement on events will be posted on social media as well as on the museum’s website, www.avagardner.org.  Make sure to follow the museum on Facebook and Twitter for current news.

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Honoring the Legend and the Lady that was Ava Gardner

Honoring the Legend and the Lady that was Ava Gardner

This morning I stood by the side of the road on the sloping lawns of Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery to bear witness with around 2 dozen other people. I stood in the cold sunshine and watched as the historical marker of Ava Gardner was revealed by her remaining friends and family. It was a beautiful ceremony in which the Director of the Ava Gardner Museum, Ava's great niece, and Ava's nephew all offered words on who Ava was and what she meHistoric Markerans to her home county of Johnston.

For those of you who don't know, public figures of historical significance must be deceased for 25 years before the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources will erect a roadside plaque in their honor. Ava passed away in 1990, exactly 25 years ago. But she would be 93 today; her birthday is in fact Christmas Eve. Ava's marker, as you can see from the picture, rests 100 yards away from her gravestone.

This week there have been 2 events related to the dedication of this historic marker. Both involving the Ava Gardner Museum, Ava's family, and also Ava's long-time companion and housekeeper Carmen Vargas. A private dedication took place at The Carolina Theatre in Durham, NC on Wednesday the 18th of November. Following his performance at the theatre that night, Ava's step-son Frank Sinatra Jr. was kind enough to join guests in honoring Ava and to say a few kind and passionate words. By his own admission he interacted with Ava very rarely, but she once showed him a great kindness at a difficult time in his life; something she did not have to do and something he reminisced he will never forget.

I thought about Frank Sinatra Jr.'s words as I stood in front of the marker this morning at the public dedication ceremony listening to those friends and family members who knew Ava discuss their memories of her. It seems to me that every time I hear somebody talk about Ava Gardner, someoAva Posed in a Field ne who knew her, it is never about how big of a star she was... it is always about how big of a person she was. Her genuineness. Her love for her corgis. Her zest for life. Her early and passionate involvement in civil rights.

On paper Ava Gardner is still one of the biggest stars Hollywood has ever known. She remains ranked by the American Film Institute as the 25th most popular screen actress of all time. She is Johnston County's Cinderella story. A girl from Grabtown that became a star. Her legacy remains alive in Smithfield, NC where her museum brings in people from all around the world and where a plaque now marks her final resting place so that fans (old and new) can pay their respects.

But Ava Gardner was more than a star. She is more than her story. Being present at both dedication ceremonies was like watching Ava come off the paper, like watching her come alive again. To be able to see Ava through the eyes of the people who love her, who spent time with her, who knew first-hand her kindness and humor and spirit. It was an honor. To understand how humble she was. How fierce and feisty. To be awed by the unapologetic way she lived her life. It makes her seem all the more real. Because she was a real person.

In the years and decades to come there will pass a time when no one will be here to speak for her. To recount first-hand who she was. How proudly southern and proudly JoCo she was. All we will have is the historic marker and the Ava Gardner Museum. They will remain her legacy. A legacy worth protecting to anyone else who calls themselves a lover of Johnston County, a fan of Ava Gardner, or a believer in unapologetic living and southern hospitality.

I encourage you to visit Ava's museum. To go by her grave and her brand new historic marker. Spend some time with one of the most beautiful women the world has ever seen. Who soared to great heights, and kept her (bare)feet firmly planted in the Johnston County soil.

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Unveiling of New Exhibit at the Ava Gardner Museum

Unveiling of New Exhibit at the Ava Gardner Museum

 

The Ava Gardner Museum will be unveiling a new exhibit including artifacts and information associated with Ava's friend and costar Omar Sharif, who sadly passed away this year. The exhibit will also include a tribute to her husband Frank Sinatra in honor of his 100th birthday this year, and a commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Ava's death.

The museum’s Executive Director, Deanna Brandenberger, explains that this year is particularly significant in commemorating Ava’s role in Hollywood history and that the new exhibit as a three-part tribute will be a first for the museum, “the new exhibit’s design will be different from any we have done before. Our main gallery case will be split into three sections, giving each commemoration their space."

The grand opening of the exhibit will be on Saturday, October 3rd at 9 AM in conjunction with the 15th anniversary of the opening of the Ava Gardner Museum in its current location. There will not be an Ava Gardner Festival this year, but the museum invites Ava fans to come view the new exhibit and celebrate Ava, Frank, and Omar. Light refreshments will be served throughout the day.

Ava's Contemporaries

Mayerling - Ava with Omar Sharif
Omar Sharif, a widely-respected Egyptian actor, is mainly known for his epic roles in the blockbuster classics Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965). Ava first starred with Sharif in the 1968 film Mayerling, in which she played his mother, the Empress of Austria. Ironically, almost two decades later in 1986 she played his wife in Harem. Harem was also one of the last movies Ava ever made before she retired from the spotlight for health reasons. The new exhibit will include artifacts, photos, and information from both movies as a tribute to Ava's friendship with Sharif.

In Mearene Jordan's book Living with Miss G she says that Miss G (Ava) and Omar Sharif became fast friends while filming Mayerling, "Sharif immediately captivated us with his sense of humor, his charm, his immense knowledge about practically everything, and the fact that he was completely on Miss G's wave length." On both sides however, the friendship remained platonic.

According to BrandeAva and Franknberger, "Sharif once described Ava as one of his dearest friends up till her death and that he considered her to be the ‘most beautiful woman in all of the world.’ Omar’s passing was a major loss for the industry and its history and we wish to highlight his role in Ava’s life as we have done with other friends, such as Lena Horne. Ava’s husband and friend Frank Sinatra also held a similar view of Ava and they were a large part of each other’s lives for five decades. "

And so, another tribute within the new exhibit will be to Ava's third husband and love of her life, Frank Sinatra. Though their marriage did not last very long, Frank and Ava were life-long friends who loved each other passionately and forever. Even post divorce Mearene said that Frank and Ava's love affair was still in high gear, "...there were daily phone calls. If they couldn't reach each other by phone there was an unending stream of loving cablegrams reinforcing their undying devotion to each other."

This year would have been Frank's 100th birthday. His son, Frank Sinatra Jr., is currently touring the country performing his tribute show - Sinatra Sings Sinatra, which features his discussion of his father’s life as well as a concert of the songs for which his father is known. He will be performing at the Carolina Theatre in Durham on November 18th.

 

All of Ava


The final tribute within the new exhibit will be in honor of Ava herself. Since this year marks the 25th anniversary of her death, Ava will also be receiving a historical marker to be placed near Sunset Memorial Park, the cemetery in Smithfield where she is buried. While the new exhibit will premiere in October, the plaque dedication is slated for sometime in November with details to be announced soon.

Brandenberger says that this is a wonderful time to focus in on who Ava was as a person, "the 25th anniversary of Ava’s death is a time for us to draw attention to Ava the woman, and give a eulogy to her personally as well as professionally. When people visit the museum, they will discover the dichotomy of the movie star and the country girl she always remained. Essentially, we hope to represent Ava as those close to her remember her: as a true Barefoot Contessa.”  

In Ava's own words, "no one believes me, but I've always been a country girl at heart with a country girl's values." The museum is excited to continue to bring you new and exciting parts of Ava and her contemporaries.  

The Ava Gardner Museum is located in downtown Smithfield at 325 E. and admission is $8 per person. The museum is open Monday-Saturday, 9am-5pm and Sunday, 2pm-5pm. Information is available on www.avagardner.org or by calling 919-934-5830. 

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Ava Gardner Festival -- opens "Ava's Closet"

Ava Gardner Festival -- opens "Ava's Closet"

Join us in historic downtown Smithfield for the 10th Annual Ava Gardner Festival, October 3-5.  Ava went to Hollywood in 1941, a beauty from North Carolina with her college threads and saddle oxford shoes, but just a few years later she graced hundreds of magazine covers, played on-screen sirens, and was coined one of the world’s most beautiful women.

Schedule of Events for the Ava Gardner Festival

Ava Gardner FestivalFriday, October 3

Ava’s Closet Exhibit opens with a Fashion Fling reception with Sinatra-style entertainment by the Carolina Crooner, hors d’ oeuvres and beverages will provide the “fling” for the evening.  Ticket prices are $25.00 per person and the event is the museum’s annual fundraiser.

Saturday, October 4

Festival goers will enjoy the new exhibits, Heritage Tours, and FREE movie screenings of  The Killers and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean showing at 10am and 2pm respectively.  This year’s movies are a tribute to John Huston, Ava’s dear friend and famed director. All day admission is $8 for all ages.

Justin LeBlancMeet special guest, Justin LeBlanc, season 12 Project Runway finalist and local designer from Raleigh who will speak about 3D print design and fashion with visitors to the museum.  Justin will be at the museum Saturday, Oct. 4 from 9-11am.

Heritage tours on Saturday October 4th will be held throughout the day beginning at 9am, 11:30am, 1:30pm, and 3:30pm. The guided tour will take visitors to Ava’s birthplace, to the Brogden Teacherage where she grew up, and to her gravesite at Sunset Memorial Park. Tours are $15.00 per person.

 

Clayton Piano FestivalOn Saturday, Oct. 4, the museum has partnered with the Clayton Piano Festival whose theme this year is classical music from the movies. The festival organizers are working with renowned artist and Clayton native, Jonathan Levin to pay tribute to Ava Gardner with a song from Show Boat and a selection of other musical influenced by Ava's love of flamenco music. The festival will be held at The Clayton Center and begins at 7pm. Coffee and desserts will be served after the concert with a meet and greet with Azamat Sydakov, the featured pianist. Tickets are $20.00 per person plus fees/taxes and are available online at www.theclaytoncenter.com.

 Sunday, October 5

Another tribute to John Huston, The African Queen will run on Sunday at 3pm.

Get a deal with the Ava's Closet Festival Package

Ava Gardner Festival Package includes admission to all events for the weekend, and is available for $75.00 online, CLICK HERE to purchase.

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Ava Gardner Honored in Spain and Museum Exhibits Artifacts

This orange two-piece suit worn by Ava in "The Sun Also Rises", will be on display at the Retrogack 2014 Film Festival honoring Ava. This orange two-piece suit worn by Ava in "The Sun Also Rises", was on display at the Retroback 2014.  North Carolina’s own Hollywood legend Ava Gardner was honored during an international classic film festival in Granada, Spain, February 21 through March 2.

The ten-day event, Retroback 2014, featured screenings of Gardner’s movies and other classic films in the Isabel la Catolica Theater. An opening ceremony included a tribute to Gardner and a concert by Granada’s philharmonic orchestra. An added attraction was an exhibition of memorabilia from the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, NC, open to the public in a nearby bank, the Fundacion Caja Rural.  Museum Director, Todd Johnson traveled to Spain with movie posters of Ava’s films being shown, as well as, several movie costumes from the Ava Gardner collection.

Retroback has been held annually since 2009 and to date has honored Hollywood greats Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, and Marlon Brando. Hepburn’s son, Sean Ferrer, is Honorary President. “Miss Gardner’s life and own ‘Cinderella’ arc is almost a carbon copy of my mother’s life story of ‘poverty to legend'," he said. His father, Mel Ferrer, co-starred with Gardner in Knights of the Round Table (1954) and The Sun Also Rises (1957). “He always referred to her as a ‘true lady’ and the most classically beautiful woman he had ever met.”

Retroback 2014Festival organizers decided to honor Gardner because they consider her “one of the great myths of cinema.” She first visited Spain in 1950 while filming Pandora and the Flying Dutchman and moved there in 1955 to escape constant media scrutiny in the US. She fully embraced Spanish language and culture and spent much of her leisure time dancing the Flamenco and attending bullfights. “Her free spirit and her passion for life made her love Spain and Spain love her,” a recent Retroback release stated. Although she retained her American citizenship, the Spanish government attempted to collect huge sums in back taxes from the actress, so in 1968 she moved to London, where she lived until her death in 1990.

Today Gardner is memorialized with a bronze statue by noted sculptress Cio Abelli at Tossa de Mar on the Mediterranean coast in northern Spain. It was commissioned in 1998 by leaders of a grateful community who recognized the vital role Gardner played in bringing tourism to the area after her unforgettable portrayal of the enchantress Pandora Reynolds in 1951.

The Ava Gardner Museum is located in Smithfield, NC and showcases exhibits on Ava’s life and career, visit www.avagardner.org or call 919-934-5830 for more information.

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Ava Makes the Cover of Our State Magazine

Ava Gardner appears on the cover of the March 2014, Our State Magazine. Ava Gardner appears on the cover of the March 2014, Our State Magazine.

Ava Gardner, a native of Johnston County would appear on hundreds of magazine covers during her career as one of Hollywood's elite.  With extensive research, we are confident in saying she was the first and only North Carolina woman to be on both Time and Newsweek Magazines covers.

Now, Ava is honored again as Our State Magazine, has chosen a portrait by Dutch artist Bert Pffeifer which is owned by the Ava Gardner Museum, as the cover of their March issue.  Our State Magazine is North Carolina's premiere travel and life-style magazine on the state and has frequently featured Johnston County attractions, festivals, and businesses.

It goes without saying we are thrilled they chose Ava Gardner to grace their cover and the article inside features the fashion of Ava and the museum's exhibits that showcase her life and career from her humble beginnings as a farmer's daughter in the Brogden community til her death in London in 1990.  This feature will spark new interest in the museum and no doubt bring new and repeat visitors to Smithfield.

We hope our readers will be inspired to visit us soon!
 
Time MagazineIn September 1951, Gardner appeared on the cover of Time magazine, featured in a story titled “The Farmer’s Daughter,” which also  covered the history and importance of the female star in Hollywood.  Time, in its piece on Gardner, added some caveats, noting that she was not “the most beautiful babe” in Hollywood, nor was she the best actress.  However, she exuded an allure and mysterious qualities, that sent the glamor meters clicking...she just might be the one new star who could bring glamor back to Hollywood.

 

 

 

 

 
Newsweek Magazine [United States] (24 November 1952)By November 1952, Ava would be featured on the cover of Newsweek, not only for her popularity in Hollywood, but she was now Mrs. Frank Sinatra and causing a media storm wherever she went.

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Ava’s “Kissing Kin” Meet in Smithfield for Seminar

Ava Gardner Age 4 Ava Gardner, (picture of Ava at four-years-old) was born in the rural community of Brogden, seven miles east of Smithfield.

Comments we hear often at the museum are... "I am related to Ava", "I went to school with Ava", or "I dated Ava"...visitors to the museum are eager to make a connection to the local Hollywood star born in Johnston County.

Now family and interested fans can meet Ava's kin and learn more about genealogy methods at the same time.  The Ava Gardner Museum and the Johnston County Genealogical and Historical Society will hold a genealogy seminar, “Ava Gardner’s Kissing Kin,” on April 12 in Historic Downtown Smithfield.

“This event is for those who claim kin with our hometown Hollywood star and also for anyone who wants to learn more about the revolutionary use of DNA in genealogical research,” says Museum Director Todd Johnson. The event, taking place 8:30 am to 1 pm, will begin with registration and a tour of the Ava Gardner Museum and will continue in the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield.

Cynthia Wells of Cabarrus County, a noted speaker on the topic of genetic genealogy, will present “Exploring the Mysteries, Exploding the Myths: Expanding Your Family History Using DNA,” a lecture she delivered during the 2013 annual meeting of the International Society of Genetic Genealogists in Dublin, Ireland. Information about DNA projects involving the Gardner and related families will be included.

Presentations on Ava Gardner’s ancestry will follow, including a Show-and-Tell segment. “We suspect many of Ava’s relatives across eastern North Carolina have lots of information, family stories, heirlooms, and photographs, and we would love to have some of them share with our audience,” Johnson adds.

Research to date indicates Gardner’s ancestors carried the following surnames: Baker, Barnes, Batts, Cherry, Cobb, Dilday, Duke, Ellis, Forbes, Gardner, Gray, Harrell, Jordan, Vickers, and Webb. Most of her family lines can be traced to pioneer settlers of the Virginia and Carolina Tidewater region in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The cost for the event is $10 per person, and advance registration is recommended. For more information call 919-934-5830, or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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John Huston Stuck By Ava Gardner—His Choice for “Maxine Faulk”

Ava Gardner John Huston stayed with his first choice actress, Ava Gardner to star in "The Night of the Iguana"

In 1963 Ava Gardner was happy living in Madrid, away from Hollywood where paparazzi would not leave her alone. But film director John Huston convinced her to leave Spain to play Maxine Faulk in Tennessee Williams’ The Night of the Iguana in spite of the playwright’s objections.  Williams thought Ava was too beautiful for the part and wanted to cast a “beaten up old dame” like Bette Davis, who played Maxine on Broadway. Huston replied, “Ava Gardner is a Tar Heel from North Carolina, someone that sticks to his position in the battle line…. Ava can belt it out.… You’ll see a very fine actress at work.”

“Many critics consider Ava’s role as Maxine to be one of her finest performances,” states Todd Johnson, Director of the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, NC. Ava was nominated for a Golden Globe for this role and went on to win two international awards, the Best Foreign Actress Film Award (BAFTA) and Best Actress at the San Sebastian Film Festival.

This year’s Ava Gardner Festival, October 4-6, will showcase this highly publicized film project, which took place in the little known town of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  Ava would dub the location, “Hollywood on the Rocks.”  Director John Huston wanted actors to truly experience the hardships portrayed in the film by insisting they be on set for the entire production, living together under harsh conditions.  Publicity intensified with the presence of Elizabeth Taylor, who was making international news concerning rumors of her marriage to cast member Richard Burton.

Festival visitors can enjoy new exhibits, a Heritage Tour, and a FREE movie screening.  Heritage tours on Saturday, October 5th will be held throughout the day beginning at 9am. The guided tour will take visitors to Ava’s birthplace, to the Brogden Teacherage where she grew up, and to her gravesite at Sunset Memorial Park. All-day admission to the Ava Gardner Museum is $7, and heritage tour tickets are $13. In addition, the museum plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the filming of The Night of the Iguana  by showing the movie on Saturday, October 5th, and Sunday afternoon, October 6th, in the museum’s theatre.

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: 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.

 

 

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1965 Hits

“Mad About Ava” Tapped as a County-wide Cocktail Party

"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!

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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.

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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?

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Group Tour Operators

girl with camera in travel group

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

hotel bed and pillow with johnston county logo

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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