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

Racing in Johnston County – 2017 GALOT Schedule

Racing in Johnston County – 2017 GALOT Schedule


Start Your Engines! Come out to GALOT Motorsports Park for an evening of fun for racers and spectators alike. GALOT will be hosting many different racing events throughout the year. There is something on the schedule for every type of racing fan.

At least three times throughout the year GALOT is very excited to present Mad Mule Pro Mod Shootout racing at GALOT. This is going to be a thrilling racing spectacle with regional racers bringing their own cars and going toe-to-toe in an eighth-mile drag race. The series will follow the same rules and points as Extreme Outlaw Pro Mod with the exception of limiting the field to 8 cars. If you're a fan of drag racing or looking for some fast-paced entertainment, these race events are for you.

New to GALOT this year is the MTC Drag Bike Nationals, a can’t-miss event for racers with a love of motorcycles. The supercharged, nitro burning Pingel Top Fuel machines will highlight the thirteen class, all motorcycle, drag racing weekend in July. Alongside the 200mph Top Fuel bikes, the ManCup Pro show will also feature pro action in Pro Fuel, Pro Mod, Pro Street, Pro Open and Real Street categories.

And back by popular demand this fall is the Monster Truck Throw-down. This is an especially great event for kids and families. The list below includes all currently planned events with more to be added. Mark your calendars for a fun year of racing at GALOT.

March 4th: Mad Mule Pro Mod Shootout

March 25th: Carolina N/T Small Tire Tour and Grudge Racing

March 30th - April 1st: PDRA

April 8th - 9th: NHRA Lucas Oil Divisional

April 22nd - 23rd: Get-A-Load-Of-This Car Show and Swap Meet

May 2nd - 6th: K&N Spring Fling

June 2nd - 3rd: Mule City 300 (NTPA Grand National Pull)

July 1st: Mad Mule Pro Mod Shootout

July 8th: Carolina N/T Small Tire Tour and Grudge Racing

July 15th - 16th: MTC Drag Bike Nationals

September 7th - 9th: PDRA         
          
September 16th: Carolina N/T Small Tire Tour and Grudge Racing

October 6th - 7th: Monster Truck Throw-down

November 4th: Mad Mule Pro Mod Shootout

For more details, and more events as they are added, visit GALOTmotorsportspark.com or call the track at 919-894-1662. GALOT Motorsports Park is located at 555 Dragstrip Road Benson, North Carolina 27504. Racers and spectators interested in over-night accommodations can look for special rates at area hotels, as well as local dining and shopping deals, by visiting johnstoncountync.org/GALOT.

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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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67th Annual Benson Mule Days® Celebration set for September 21-25

67th Annual Benson Mule Days® Celebration set for September 21-25

Last week we did a round-up of Fall festivals and activities coming to JoCo as the weather gets cooler. This week we'll be focusing in on one of those events that is just a few weeks away.

The town of Benson, North Carolina celebrates Benson Mule Days® the 4th Saturday of September each year. This year it will take place September 21st through the 25th.  Mule Days was also recognized by the Southeast Tourism Society this year as a September 2016 Top 20 Event. The festival is considered one of the largest festivals in North Carolina and will kick-off with a carnival, trolley rides, and concert Thursday night.

This festival, which draws approximately 50,000 people, is full of family fun and activities for everyone young and old. The weekend is packed with rodeos, a mule pulling contest, arts and crafts, vendors, street dances, carnival rides, camping, parades, bluegrass shows and more.

The parade alone attracts about 20,000 people and takes place Saturday, September 24th at 10:00a.m. The parade will feature bands, floats, antique tractors, and hundreds of horses, mules, and buggies. Following the parade visitors can make their way to the Singing Grove Park where a Bluegrass show is being presented.

Visit the arts and crafts vendors as well as food and commercial vendors.  It is always fun to walk into the local businesses which offer a variety of products in our area.  There are three rodeos, the first of which begins on Friday night followed by a Saturday night performance.  On Sunday there is a Youth Rodeo.

As a rural community, Benson, North Carolina has long been known for its farm heritage.  The trading of mules was one of the town’s main occupations. The memories and a love for tradition led Nowell Smith and Willis McLamb to discuss with Lewis Lawrence, the first manager of the newly formed Benson Chamber of Commerce, the possibility of setting aside a day to celebrate the mule. In 1950, the Benson Area Chamber of Commerce agreed to sponsor the first Mule Days. The festival continues to be a spectacle that garners international attention. Visitors come from as far away as Alaska, Germany, and California to see and also participate in Mule Days.

For a complete schedule of this 67-year-old event visit www.bensonmuledays.com, call (919) 894-3825, or e-mail the Benson Chamber at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Benson Announces Hampton Plans

Benson Announces Hampton Plans

It was announced yesterday in a press conference that Benson is getting a hotel right off of I-95 at Exit 79. The news is being received enthusiastically by the community, in part due to the boost it will bring in economic vitality but also because the town and surrounding area are in need of additional accommodation options. Adam Leath, representing the hotel developer Leath Co LLC, and Benson Mayor William Massengill discussed the project at the press conference before revealing that the hotel would fly under the Hampton Inn flag and also presenting building plans to the public.

Leath spoke to the project as something that the town and the county could be proud of, which Massengill echoed had become something of a measurement for Benson's community projects in the last few years, " we want to ask of ourselves, not simply will this project benefit the town, but will it be something that community leaders and members can be proud of."

If the design and atmosphere of the hotel discussed are anything to go by, it will certainly be a contributing addition to the Benson community and the group of hotels that welcome travelers all over Johnston County. The Hampton Inn in Benson is designed for families, tourists, and corporate travelers alike. The 88-room hotel will deliver an atmosphere for a comfortable work environment and a restful stay - including 8 suites, free Wi-Fi in public areas, free in-room high-speed internet access, a clean and fresh Hampton bed®, Hampton’s free hot breakfast, flat screen televisions, complimentary beverage areas, guest laundry, elevators, a fitness center, and an outdoor heated pool.

 The hotel will also offer accessible and pet-friendly rooms with plans already approved by the NC Department of Transportation to install a free-range dog park directly across from the hotel. In addition the hotel features a 1,000 sq. ft. conference center with the latest audio-visual technology and media equipment.

We here at the Johnston County Visitors Bureau are excited about the added room availability that the Hampton will add to our county and the Benson area. Building the Hampton Inn in Benson means it is located less than 20 minutes from Campbell University, 45 minutes from Raleigh Durham International Airport (RDU), and 25 minutes from the Johnston County Airport. In addition, as readers of this blog know, Benson has been growing its tourism assets this year thanks to the continued growth of Broadslab Distillery and the opening of GALOT Motorsports Park - both located less than 5 miles from the new hotel site. In fact, 2015 statistics show that 19 million new dollars in private investment went into Benson last year.

During the press conference Mayor Massengill spoke to this growth and the hotel announcement as proof that Benson's leaders and citizens are working to develop Benson into an attractive place to live and visit, "this project is proof of what happens when the private sector, government, and non-profits work together." Adam Leath said that the Leath company, " looks forward to the partnership with Benson and providing a service that is needed in the community." The company anticipates breaking ground in November of 2016 and hopes to open to guests in Fall of 2017.

The news to build a Hampton Inn in Benson comes on the heels of the grand opening of the Country Inn & Suites in Smithfield and proves that Johnston County continues to grow as a tourism destination in North Carolina and along the I-95 corridor. The continued development of Johnston County's economic development and tourism assets means better options for travelers and prosperity for community members.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page and the Visit Benson website for updates on this project as they become available.

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State Annual Singing Convention Celebrates 96th Year

State Annual Singing Convention Celebrates 96th Year

An Event that is 96 Going on 100


According to their website, "The State Annual Singing Convention, which brings thousands of people to Benson each year, began modestly in a tobacco warehouse in 1921. About 200 people listened to two choirs that day. Since that time, the State Annual Singing Convention has grown and become one of the largest and oldest gospel sings in the United States."

The picture below (left) is an old black and white photo capturing the early days of this almost 100 year old event that attracts participants and spectators from all over the southeast. This year's convention, nicknamed the Benson Sing, is expecting over 50 amateur, semi-professional and professional competitors. The other picture below (right) is what the singing grove will look like when you attend the event this year - sitting on almost 96 years of musical history.

                                      
You can visit the Benson Museum of Local History to learn all about the long history of the singing convention, including more information about its founders. But here's some interesting facts to get you started:

•    S. P. Honeycutt, J. B. Raynor, T. C. Miller, J. V. Barefoot, and J. H. Rose were the 1921 founding fathers of the “sing.”  When the old warehouse on Market Street was destroyed by fire in 1922 and the group had to find a new place to meet, Mrs. Catherine Benson, Honeycutt’s mother-in-law, donated an oak-shaded grove in the middle of town and the site became the permanent home of the State Singing Convention.

•    In the first year of the sing Trinity Church Choir, lead by O.H. Barefoot, and the New Zealand Choir, led by Noah Blackman, tied in the competition.  In the tie-breaker, the Silver Loving Cup was awarded to the New Zealand Choir by the judges.

•    In 1943, during World War II, the organizers decided to cancel the competition.  However, after notices were placed around the state in area newspapers and sent to area churches over 3,000 people showed up on the fourth weekend in June. Organizers proceeded with the competition to entertain the faithful followers of the Sing.


BYOLC - Bring Your Own Lawn Chair


The Ninety-sixth State Annual Singing Convention will be held Friday, June 24th through Sunday, June 26th in the Singing Grove, a beautiful city park at 400 East Main Street in Benson, North Carolina. No admission is charged, and people are encouraged to bring a lawn chair to sit and enjoy the music.  On Friday, the following groups will each present thirty minute concerts starting at 7pm: Full Reliance, The Hinshaw Trio, Journey ‘N Faith, Divine Intention, Heaven’s Grace, and Maranatha Singers.

On Saturday The Inspirations will be featured in a special concert at 7pm with The Hickory Grove Quartet opening at 6:30pm. A household name in any musical genre, the Inspirations are models of consistency in the Southern Gospel Music field. They originated in 1964 when Martin Cook, a chemistry teacher at Swain County High in Bryson City, NC, and a few of his students and friends held nightly singing sessions in the basement of his home, purely for fun. A few of them decided to take their act on the road a few years later and immediately took Southern Gospel Music by storm. The Inspirations have remained at the forefront of the genre since, while achieving tremendous popularity and success. They make up a four-part harmony quartet with an unmistakable sound, striking the medium of traditional Southern Gospel and country.



As customary, informal (round robin) singing begins at 10am on Saturday and Sunday and continues daily with only two exceptions: (1) during group competition (2) during the special concerts by The Inspirations and The Hickory Grove Quartet on Saturday night.  All groups are welcome and encouraged to sing in the contests.  People are welcome to come out and watch at any time. On Saturday and Sunday competing junior and senior groups including duets, trios, quartets, families, and church choirs begin at 2 pm.


Sing Your Heart Out - How to Participate


If you're interested in participating instead of spectating, groups singing in Saturday’s competition are asked to fill out a registration form in the office in the Singing Grove by 1pm on Saturday.  Groups singing in Sunday’s competition are asked to fill out a registration form in the office by 1pm on Sunday.  There is no on-line registration this year.  Please call, fax, or email if you have questions - contact information below.  There are NO SOLOS due to time restraints.  There is no entry fee to compete in the contests.

The State Annual Singing Convention, Inc. website, www.gospelsingingconvention.org, has important information for 2016. You can also visit them on Facebook at State Annual Singing Convention – Benson Sing.  Please call (919)-894-4389, or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for additional information.

If you're interested in more summer events, shows, and concerts in the Johnston County area, visit johnstoncountyevents.com.

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Buy a Bottle at Broadslab

Buy a Bottle at Broadslab

 

We have reached at least a temporary closing to our Meet the Makers. Broadslab Distillery is the last of the Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail locations to be discussed in this blog series. Broadslab's owner and master distiller Jeremy Norris is the last maker in Johnston County to fall under the craft beverage industry. However, that does not mean that Jeremy is the last maker I will have the privilege of sitting down with. It is my hope to extend the Meet the Makers series into other blogs, regarding artisans and artists throughout the county. So, stay tuned. Meanwhile, onward with boasting about Broadslab!

One For The Road

Craft distilling is a growing industry across North Carolina. And like wineries and breweries, distilleries not only boost the econoTasting at Broadslabmy through production and sells, but through drawing tourists to the state who are interested in tasting vodka, bourbon, gin, whiskey, and authentic southern moonshine. North Carolina has always been, shall we say, notorious for the illegal home brewing of such beverages, but distillers have been able to legally make it (with the proper permits) for years now. But, did you know, that distillers have not always been able to sell their own product on-site at the distillery until this month?

Benson-based Broadslab Distillery has been offering tours and tastings since March of this year. But, in order to buy the product, visitors to the property where Jeremy makes his "shine" would have to leave the farm and drive into Benson, to the nearest ABC store, to lay their hands on a full bottle of product. This year NC legislators voted to change that. For the first time in over 100 years, visitors to Broadslab can purchase a bottle of shine from Jeremy.  One bottle. Per person. Per year. For those visitors from states with more liberal alcohol laws this may sound restrictive. But for the members of the North Carolina Distillers Association it's a step in the right direction... and hopefully a singular step on a longer path to making our state a mecca for visitors looking to experience authentic southern liquor.  I invite you to visit and give Broadslab a try. You can now take one for the road! The tasting room is located right off I-95 in Benson, NC near the intersection of I-40 and I-95. This makes Broadslab convenient from the Triangle if you're looking for things to do in Raleigh or you want to expand your tour of Raleigh distilleries.

The Real Deal

Jeremy is what we would dub the "real deal", with a back story about growing up in a family of moonshiners in a community known for the trade.Broadslab Legacy Shine Gold Medal Unlike some distilleries in the state using moonshine stories as a marketing ploy, Jeremy is building a brand whose story has honest origins. Jeremy was raised by his grandfather, and helped him on the farm for many years as he ran a produce stand there at the house, now the tasting room.  His grandfather's heart and hands and spirit tended the land and his shine stills once dotted the landscape back before Jeremy was born.

The Broadslab recipes are the embodiment of a 5 generation legacy and were passed down by the great-great grandfathers on both sides of Jeremy’s family. One of them, William “Bill” McLamb, was active in the dawn of the moonshine trade and distilled smooth, sipping whiskey long before prohibition. But it was Jeremy’s grandfather, Leonard A. Wood, who eventually passed on the family recipe.

Once moonshine became legal in NC Jeremy saw the opportunity for his family to turn a lawless legacy into a labor of love operation. His grandfather Leonard finally agreed to share his knowledge, recipes, and oral shine history. And so they toiled together, perfecting the process and arguing between decades of tradition and modern techniques. As Jeremy’s mentor and personal advisor, Leonard was integral in building the Broadslab still, but passed away before opening. Since then, Jeremy has purchased land from his family to own the farm his grandfather loved so much.  Jeremy has roots in the land like many other Johnston County farmers. The distillery sits in the footprint of many of his stills on the family farm outside Benson, NC.

From Dirt to Bottle
Broadslab Legacy Reserve Shine Bronze Medal
As far as Jeremy knows, he is the only distillery in the state that is growing the grain, harvesting and processing it, and making it all with natural ingredients. If you're standing in the Broadslab tasting room, you're standing on the land that the corn in your whiskey was grown on. There will be no additives, artificial ingredients or syrups in Broadslab products.  Some are even considered organic for those foodies that seek out that designation. But, there are some other important "organic" ingredients to Broadslab Distillery's product that make it truly one of a kind. The hand-crafted love that goes into every step in the process is one ingredient. From "dirt to bottle", Jeremy is the engine behind the process putting that drink in your hand.

Jeremy's grandfather told him there are two kinds of shine, the shine you sale and the shine you drink.  Jeremy is making the shine you drink.  He has altered the methods his grandfather used to pour off the harsh chemicals that are in front of the "drinking shine", and he cuts off the still before the bitter taste at the bottom effects the product.  This "sweet spot" so to speak is the fine product Jeremy is producing. Jeremy has remarked more than once that his grandfather would get upset that Jeremy was "wasting" a portion of the product in order to craft a better taste. While Jeremy understood the practicality behind his grandfather's idea, he wanted his product to be a smooth as possible.

And Now, Award-Winningb2ap3_thumbnail_Apple-Shine-Medal.jpg

The hand-crafted glass of Broadslab shine or rum you sip on in the tasting room doesn't just have your basic white lightening ingredients in it. It has the weight of a war between the lawful and the lawless. The sense of secrecy as hands toiled to distill in the dead of night or run boxes up the river under cover of darkness. The smell of wild southern nights, gun smoke, and pure grain alcohol. The taste of sizzling lightening tempered by time and passion into a smooth and robust drink.

If you don't believe me, believe the judges at the Blue Ridge Spirit Competition this year. Jeremy took home Gold for his Legacy Shine, Silver for his Apple Shine, and Bronze for his  Reserve Legacy Shine. Congrats to Jeremy and Broadslab! 

Visit Broadslab Distillery for the shine and you certainly won't be disappointed.  But stick around for the stories and you'll find yourself perched on the barstool long after the shot glass in your hand runs dry. The tasting room is open Thursday through Saturday, starting at 12N, with tours, tasting, and shot glass for $12.00. Find out more at -- www.broadslabdistillery.com.

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World Class Wakeboarding in Johnston County!

World Class Wakeboarding in Johnston County!

 

Did you know that Johnston County is home to one the United States’ premier wake boarding parks? That’s right! Hexagon Wake Park at Tucker Lake is one of only 30 cable wake parks in the US. In an area known for Civil War history, tobacco farming and mules, this park offers a unique opportunity to enjoy this active sport in a safe, environment. 

If you have never heard of a wake park, allow me to explain. Hexagon is a cable wake park. Just like those wake boarders you see skimming across Lake Jordan behind speedboats, Hexagon offers the same thrill, but there’s no boat needed! Since there’s no boat to maintain and it doesn't use gas, it’s less expensive than traditional wake boarding.

Cable wake boarding uses an overhead cables system to pull wake boarders across the water.  Personally, I like the consistency with cable wake boarding too. Speed is easily controlled, which gives beginners like me some confidence. 

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The Hexagon Experience

Hexagon Wake Park at Tucker Lake uses a straight line cable to teach the basics to new wake boarders and a hexagonal shaped continuous running cable wake system. The straight line cable gives beginners a chance to learn the feel of the cable system and how to stand on a board. Basics mastered, boarders move on to the continuous hexagonal shaped system. It's faster and offers jumps and rails for advanced boarders.

Hexagon Wake Park is located at 3025 Allens Crossroads, Benson, NC. Guests should park in the lot opposite the wake park office. At check-in, guests must complete a liability release form — this is an adventure sport after all. 

Once fitted with a board, helmet and life jacket, a training video explains the basics: how the helmet fits, what to expect at the water and how to stand up. In my opinion, this is not the best set-up for such an important feature. The video plays on a small TV high on a wall in the corner of the store/registration area, where nearby noise and activity distracts. My son, who has been cable wake boarding before, was fine with it. My daughter, a first-timer, really didn’t understand what she watched and got distracted by everything going on around us. 

I spent some time reviewing the safety instructions and tutorial with her, then we headed out to the dock and the straight-line training cable.

My son did great -- he got to his feet no problem and headed off to the Hexagon cable to try the “real” one.

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Going... going... gone! He found his feet!

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Ben mastered the Hexagon! Next trip --- jumps and rails

My daughter did not fare so well. She tried, but she never got on her feet.

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Almost on her feet -- but she didn't lock those knees. Nice try!

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Look at the face! Such determination.

The key to successfully wake boarding is NOT to think! The cable does all the work. All the rider has to do is let it —- let the cable pull you to your feet, then lock in those legs and enjoy the ride. If you think too much, you’ll try to stand up and topple forward. If you resist and pull against the cable, you’ll tumble again. 

Hunter, a Hexagon staff member, tried everything he could to help her. When she wanted to quit (the first time out), he talked her into taking a break and trying again. It just wasn’t her day.

Back to my son… his first three attempts on the Hexagon cable looked much like my daughter’s on the training cable. He just couldn’t figure it out. The staff member worked with him (amazing young man -- wish I could remember his name), fixing his stance, showing him how to hold the handles, and teaching him to listen for the click signaling that he was hooked in to the cable. Just like that, he was on his feet. He made a full circuit, and didn’t wipe out until he mis-judged a turn toward the end.

The wake boarders in line cheered him on! There’s a special camaraderie among this group of people. (We noticed this in Illinois too!)

Location

Hexagon Wake Park is located at 3025 Allens Crossroads, Benson, NC, convenient to Interstate 40, Exit 328B. Out of town visitors have ample hotel options in nearby Benson or at the I-40/State Route 42 interchange. 

The facility

The bath house/changing room is located at the far side of Tucker Lake Park, so I suggest you arrive ready to board: swim suit, rash guard and sunscreen. 

There are no lockers at Hexagon Wake Park. We took our duffle bags, towels and camera to the wake board area and set them on a picnic table. If you aren’t comfortable with that, just lock valuables in your trunk.

Recommended ages

While there are no age restrictions, boarders under age 10 must pay for an extra coaching session their first visit. I have seen very young kids successfully boarding, but it all depends on their personality. I wouldn’t force a timid child to try it. Adults, unless you have physical limitations, I really think you should try! If I can do it, anyone can. 

Rates

Rates for Hexagon Cable Park vary. All wake boarding rates include admission to all the amenities at Tucker Lake Park. Come for the wake boarding and stay for the slides! 

I strongly suggest a 2-hour session for first-timers as it can take a while to figure out how to stand up. For complete rates, click here

You will not be on the cables the full time! Every time you fall, you have to get back in line and wait your turn to board again. My son said that after a run, the break is good to rest hands and muscles before another ride. 

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Hexagon Wake Park is a bit of a secret to locals, but not to the rest of the world. The owner of the Illinois park has visited. A family from Wilmington was there for their third visit of the smmer. We met an 11 year old boy from California who declared it the highlight of his vacation! Locals, this is your park too! Come on out and see how easy it is.

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Rebekah Todd Talks Benson, Bands, and Being an Independent Artist

Rebekah Todd Talks Benson, Bands, and Being an Independent Artist

Rebekah Todd Talks Benson, Bands, and Being an Independent Artist

~ 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. She's in the quiet lull between set-up and show-time for her Raleigh concert at Tir Na Nog. 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.

Musical Influence - a Little Bit of Rock and a Little Bit of Soul

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.

On the Road, Take the Stage

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 TRebekah Toddhe 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 ask 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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State Annual Singing Convention Brings Gold City to Benson

State Annual Singing Convention Brings Gold City to Benson

The Ninety-fifth State Annual Singing Convention will be held Friday, June 26, Saturday, June 27, and Sunday, June 28, 2015, in the “Singing Grove,” a beautiful city park at 400 East Main Street in Benson, North Carolina.  

Gold City Quartet will be this year's special guest performing on Saturday at approximately 7:00 p.m. Formed in 1980, many bands since have tried to copy their style and sound. In their own words the band has enjoyed, "a stellar career with numerous number one songs, fan and industry awards, and prestigious honors... yet remains down-to-earth, grounded in their southern roots, and committed to continuing their mission of delivering power-packed four-part harmonies and singing songs that are meaningful, entertaining, inspiring, and uplifting."
Gold CityThe group includes bass singer Chris West, baritone Daniel Riley, lead singer Chip Pullen, and tenor Robert Fulton. The dynamic vocal range lends itself to a vibrant musical sound. Gold City has continually been embraced by radio and their fans, leading to number one songs in each of the last four decades, their most recent being "Peter James and John" in 2012. The Benson Singing Grove will certainly be filled with sound next weekend. For more information on Gold City Quartet, visit www.goldcityqt.com.

A Weekend Full of Song

Adoration Quartet will be opening for Gold City at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday night. Many other talented semi-professional and amateur groups will appear during the weekend presented in thirty minute concerts on Friday, June 26, starting at 7 p.m.:  Full Reliance, The Hinshaw Family, Master’s Hands,  Hearts Song , Trinity Quartet, and The Griffins (order of appearance and times may vary).
State SingCompetition is on both Saturday and Sunday with junior and senior groups including duets, trios, quartets, families, and church choirs competing for trophies beginning at 2 p.m. All groups are welcome and encouraged to sing in the contests.

There is no entry fee to compete in the contests. No admission is charged, and people are encouraged to bring a lawn chair. The State Annual Singing Convention, Inc. is a non-profit organization and all officers, directors, and staff are volunteers., www.gospelsingingconvention.org.

 

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Broadslab Distillery Opens Tasting Room March 19

Broadslab Distillery Opens Tasting Room March 19

Experience the spirit of the south with moonshine from Broadslab Distillery at the new tasting room opening March 19.  Jeremy Norris, Broadslab owner and master distiller, uses a family-inspired shine recipe passed down over five generations. Visitors  can now take tours of the distillery and get "shine" samples in the tasting room.  Fee for the tour is $12.00 per person, and the gift shop on site offers Broadslab merchandise.

Broadslab VisitorsOn March 19, the Tasting Room Grand Opening will run from 12-6pm, and continue on Friday and Saturday for the same hours.  Visitors will learn about Jeremy's process which involves locally grown and milled corn and hand-made oak barrels crafted by Jeremy himself and used to age the Broadslab Legacy product to perfection.  Broadslab also produces a white rum, a spiced rum, and traditional moonshine which is the "real deal".

"Jeremy has converted his grandfather's home into a grand tasting room, just a short ride from the distillery, and its location four miles from Benson, I-95 at exit 79, will be very convenient for travelers," stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, President, Johnston County Visitors Bureau. "We wish him all the success in the world, and Broadslab will now become a stop along the Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail in the county."

Visitors will enjoy meeting this master distiller who has preserved the legacy of this region, long known for the quality and quantity of home-brewed whiskey.   Jeremy learned his craft from his grandfather and offers a true "farm to the table" product, even growing corn used at the distillery on the family farm.  Broadslab is available for sale in ABC stores in North Carolina and is distributed in four states.  Jeremy has appeared on the Chef and the Farmer television series and has been featured in several promotions with the Johnston County Visitors Bureau and media events with Visit NC.

Broadslab is a member of the North Carolina Distillers Association and is a part of the North Carolina Distillery Trail. The tasting room is located just a few miles from I-95, at 4870 NC HWY 50 South, Benson, NC and will have regular hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 12-6pm. Benson is very convenient to the Triangle area, so if you're looking for things to do in Raleigh, check-out Broadslab. For more information call (919) 291-0691 or visit the website, www.broadslabdistillery.com.

 

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Think Clayton - Think Valentine's Day

Think Clayton - Think Valentine's Day

Love is in the air in Clayton at area restaurants and special event venues where couples will have several choices for an evening out on Saturday, February 14th.  And not to forget our friends east on I-40 in Benson, the Preston Woodall House is holding a special event too!

From classical music to the Beatles and wine tastings....choose from the following events:

Jonathan LevinClassical pianist Jonathan Levin, will be hosting the 3rd Annual Valentine's Day Gala at the Historic Wagner House beginning at 6pm.  

Titled “Tales of Love from Beethoven to Broadway”, the concert will feature music based in some way on a little thing called…yes you guessed it – Love! There will be a fun mix of classical and some music from the golden age of American songwriting including CPF’s own Jonathan Levin premiering some of his own virtuosic piano arrangements of Broadway favorites by Jerome Kern, Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers.  Jonathan will be joined by two world-class artists, violinist Michael Danchi and mezzo-soprano Nora Graham-Smith.  For the past few years Ms. Graham-Smith has sung roles in operas the world over, as well as in America. She is currently a resident artist at Opera Memphis in Tennessee.  Michael Danchi is no stranger to the triangle area, and has enjoyed a multi-faceted career as a violinist, composer, ballet dancer, sound engineer, and screenwriter.  In addition to performances nationwide, has performed locally as a soloist with the Raleigh and Durham Symphonies and with the Carolina Ballet both as violinist and dancer. 

After the concert there will be a reception where you will be able to mingle with the performers.  For more information and to purchase tickets which are $60.00 per person, contact Paul Black at 919-585-1221

Brick and Mortar  

Save the date for a romantic evening of food & wine! The menu posted below will be paired with wonderful wines from around the world! Taste 6 wines served at 6 different stations paired with fabulous food!
    
     Cheese & Fruit Display
     Italian Wedding Soup with Crostini
     Grilled Shrimp & Grilled Chicken
     Pizza display - variety of our homemade, hand tossed pizzas
     Filet Mignon with rich balsamic glaze
     Chocolate Extravaganza (variety of decadent desserts)
Party begins at 6:30 pm
Tickets:  $40.00
For ticket requests call 919-616-8995

Manning's on Main

Chef Howard Manning, who worked in Raleigh for several years, opened Manning's on Main in August of 2014 to rave reviews and a consistently packed restaurant. His elevated southern menu is flavorful and rich. The restaurant is preparing a memorable Valentine's Day experience with carriage rides, for more information visit the website for hours, location and to review the regular menu.  919-585-7005

The Preston Woodall House

The Preston Woodall House has booked the Todd Montgomery Duo to play at their Valentine's Dinner, Saturday February 14th, playing during both the 6:00pm and 8:30pm seatings! Enjoy this dynamic duo as they play great songs coming from these artists plus many more...Billy Joel, Elton John, Ray Charles, Cole Porter, and Sam Cooke.

The extensive dinner menu includes Prime Rib and Roasted Chicken with hors d'oeuvres, salads, sides and desserts for $80.00 per person (includes tax and gratuity). All meals served with one complimentary glass of champagne.  A cash bar will be available throughout the evening.  Call 919-894-7025 for reservations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"Benson Is A Rocking" Public Art Project

"Benson Is A Rocking" Public Art Project

JCVB Rocking ChairAfter three months on display the 14 rocking chairs of the “Benson Is A Rocking” public art campaign will be retired. Each chair was painted by a local artist and displayed in Downtown Benson. The last time to see the chairs will be at the Benson Harvest Festival on October 25th from 9am-2pm in the Benson Singing Grove. Those interested can also see the chairs online at www.bensonisarocking.com.

The “Benson Is A Rocking” public art campaign was a program initiated by the Benson Small Town Main Street Committee. The campaign was designed to bring attention to Downtown Benson while highlighting great local artist’s talents. Each of the 14 chairs were designed by different artists and showcase their unique talents.

“This public art campaign has been a great way for us to infuse locally created artwork in our downtown. Bringing local area artist, sponsors and store owners together to work on a project has been rewarding and shows the great sense of community that exists here in Benson.” said, Joe Stallings Economic Development and Media Coordinator.

After the Benson Harvest Festival those chairs that were purchased by their sponsors will go back to the purchasers. The remaining seven chairs will be auctioned off at the Benson Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet on January 22nd. If you are interested in bidding on a rocking chair please contract Joe Stallings at 919-894-1606. All proceeds from the chairs will go towards economic development and beautification efforts in Benson’s Downtown District.

Special thanks to our sponsors: Benton Card Company, Benson Museum of Local History, Benson Parks and Recreation Department, First Citizens Bank, Frugal Peacock, Hannah Creek Veterinary Hospital, Johnston County Visitors Bureau, Ken Tart Photography, Mary Duncan Public Library, Neighbors and Associates, Small World Travel, Sylvia Herring and William and Elaine Massengill.

 

 

 

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Benson Guitarist Earns N.C. honor

Jimmy CappsLong before Jimmy Capps was an accomplished guitarist and staple performer at the Grand Ole Opry, he was a kid in Benson who listened to the Opry over the radio with his father on Saturday nights.

“There was a certain magic about the guitar that drew me to it,” Capps said. “I knew I had to figure out a way to learn how to play.”

Since he began playing guitar at age 12, Capps has performed on thousands of country music tracks, and he has long been a member of the house band at the Grand Ole Opry. It’s a resume that has earned him a place in the N.C. Music Hall of Fame. His induction will take place Oct. 16 at the Gem Theater in Kannapolis.

Born in Fayetteville in 1939 and reared in Benson, Capps began playing guitar and performing professionally before he was a teenager. His first gig was at radio station WCKB in Dunn, where he played for free but didn’t care.

“I was in show business,” he said.

That gig led to a series of television and radio engagements across North Carolina and, at one point, in Florence in neighboring South Carolina.

Then, at 19, Capps got his big break. The Louvin Brothers hired him as a guitarist, and he moved to Nashville, where he later became a session musician and Grand Ole Opry band member.

Capps’ guitar work has appeared on such country music recordings as Alan Jackson’s “Here in the Real World,” Conway Twitty’s “Red Neckin’ Love Makin’ Night” and John Deniver’s “Some Days Are Diamonds.” He has appeared on TV in the People’s Choice Awards, “That Good Ole Nashville Music” and on “Larry’s Country Diner.”

Since 1967, Capps has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry staff band, and he plays there every week, with no signs of stopping.

“It’s like a country club,” said his wife, Michele Voan Capps. “You get to play music with all of your friends.”

The N.C. Music Hall of Fame induction is the latest of many honors for Capps. In 1998, he came to Benson for a special performance where state Sen. Charlie Albertson proclaimed May 25 “Jimmy Capps Appreciation Day.” Eleven years later, Benson Mayor William Massengill declared Feb. 25, 2009, “Jimmy Capps Day” in front of a crowd gathered to celebrate Capps’ long run at the Grand Ole Opry.

In 1996, he was named to the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian honor. Capps has also been inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Country Music Hall of Fame, both in Nashville.

Capps learned of the N.C. Music Hall of Fame and Musicians Hall of Fame honors in the same week. His wife said he was speechless.

“They actually brought him out on the front stage, and they told him about this induction (into the N.C. Music Hall of Fame),” Michelle said. “His mouth just flew open. They said, ‘Would you like to make a speech?’ And he said, ‘Oh, that was it!’ ”

Capps said the hall of fame honors mean a lot to him. “I feel like I’m in pretty high cotton in both halls of fame,” he said. “The North Carolina Music Hall of Fame has some very important people in there – Andy Griffith, Don Gibson – tons of people who are famous.

“For your home state to [recognize you], that’s really the high rung on that ladder.”

In North Carolina, Capps will be inducted alongside several other artists, including 2004 “American Idol” winner Fantasia, “The Loco Motion” singer Little Eva and 2003 “American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken.

Above all else, Capps said, he prides himself on loyalty to his employers and his work ethic.

“There could be an artist that’s recording and he’s brand new and he’s trying to get a chance – I would work just as hard for him as I would Conway Twitty. I see no difference,” Capps said. “It’s my work that’s going to be put down on that track. I want it to be as good as it can be for that person or that company.”

Reprinted from The Smithfield Herald,
By Laura Finaldi
September 22, 2014 

 

 

 

 

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Part Four - Benson Bike Route

Part Four - Benson Bike Route

Part Four is the final installment in this series on the new JoCo Bike Routes

One of the first county-wide projects the Johnston County Sports Council tackled was developing new on-road routes for biking enthusiasts.  Currently along the country roads of the Johnston, residents may spot individual riders and club rides biking almost every morning and especially on Saturdays.

The Selma Cyclepaths have a loyal team of riders in the county, however, visitors and bikers from Wake County are now making trips over to enjoy our wide open spaces.  With these new approved bike routes, the Visitors Bureau will have established routes to market via brochures, online biking sites, hotel packages, and our county websites.

There will be four NCDOT adopted bike routes which will cover most all areas east, west, north and south.  The routes have been vetted by the NC Department of Transportation Bike and Ped Division and each local planning department has reviewed and provided a resolution of support for the routes.  The Visitors Bureau is currently designing the new JoCo Bike Route Brochure to be printed in October...interested riders can call and we will mail out brochures, or printer-friendly versions will be on our website.

Through a series of BLOG posts we will take you through each new bike ride in the county.

Benson, McGee's Crossroads Route

Benson Singing GroveA great place to start this bike trail is the Benson Singing Grove in the heart of Downtown Benson, and travel north out of town on Main Street/Hwy 50 to Benson Hardee Rd.  This farming community has been producing tobacco and sweet potatoes for over 250 years and remains predominantly agricultural. 

Travel out to the Gregory Vineyards & Winery and enjoy the scenic vineyards and farm...just a lovely spot to rest if you have some time.  Sip some wine and fuel up at the restaurant attached to the winery.

Continue west to the community known as Elevation, heart of sweet potato country and then loop back south towards Benson.  This route will take you near Tucker Lake, and Enoch Winery which are two great stops for another visit to the area as well. This region, known as Broadslab, has a Moonshine legacy and now offers a legal establishment aptly names Broadslab Distillery. The tasting room is nearby on Hwy 50, and worthy of a return visit... it's the real deal.

Back in Benson, rest at the Grove and take a stroll along the charming Main Street for a bit of shopping and a great meal at Miss Maude's Cafe. Or for a sweet treat stop by Warren Drug Store at the soda fountain for a Lemonade or ice cream cone, and for some chocolate visit Jenny's Sweet Creations. You deserve it after your ride! Benson also offers several parks for a stroll and the Benson Museum of Local History is like stepping back in time with extensive displays on the history of Benson, farming, business, and local artists.

Find out more by visiting the Benson website.

 

 

 

 

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301 Endless Yard Sale Expands in NC

Tobacco BasketThe towns of Kenly, Selma, Smithfield, Four Oaks, Micro and Benson located along US 301 in Johnston County will have company at this year's 2nd Annual 301 Endless Yard Sale, to take place the weekend of June 20-21, 2014.

Patterned after the long established 127 Longest Yard Sale that runs from Michigan to Alabama, and inspired by the HGTV television show Flea Market Flip, the communities along US 301 will join together with vendors offering deals, antiques, collectibles and more along a 100 mile stretch of highway between Roanoke Rapids to Dunn, NC.

The US 301 Endless Yard Sale officially starts on the third Friday of June on the 20th and runs through Saturday beginning at 7am and ending at 5pm. Many sellers will be located along the stretch in well established visitor sites like the Tobacco Farm Life Museum in Kenly and TWN Antiques in Selma...as well as families, churches, and schools on the route with participating vendors.

This event was spearheaded by Mayor Cheryl Oliver of Selma and encouraged by retailer Tommy Abdalla, who annually attends the 127 Sale. Tommy's enthusiasm is catching and our immediate goal includes bringing visitors to the county for the two days sale.  And who knows, maybe one day it will run the complete 301 highway from Delaware to Florida.

The Visitors Bureau is providing marketing support and helping to coordinate meetings for the event’s organizers with each town.  Visitors are invited to explore the country roads of Johnston County every year looking for the unique collectible and rare finds they may have been dreaming about...that special antique just might be along the 301 Endless Yard Sale.

For more information on the event and contacts in each town, visit the official website, www.301endlessyardsale.com

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"Moonshine" now Legal in Johnston County

Jeremy Norris producing several "shine" products and two rum spirits. Jeremy Norris now producing several "shine" products and two rum spirits.

Jeremy Norris was always intrigued by his grandfather's stories of making whiskey in the woods, sampling the product by moonlight, and the tales of hiding from lawmen who came to bust up the stills.

Of course, Jeremy's grandfather was a bootlegger. In fact,  the Norris family has been making whiskey in the woods of Johnston County since the 1700s.

Norris is carrying on the family tradition, but now in a completely legal way. Broadslab Distillery, located near Benson, has been legally manufacturing spirits since 2012 on the land once owned by his grandfather.  But now Jeremy can stay out in the open and out of trouble with the law.

Although distilled spirits have a long way to go to catch up with beer and wine, they’re a growing business in North Carolina. Agnes Stevens, public affairs director for the state ABC Commission, said there are 14 working distilleries in the state, with more on the way. The oldest is Piedmont Distillers in Madison, which started producing liquor in 2005.

Distilleries were outlawed in North Carolina in 1909, 11 years before Prohibition went into effect.  After Prohibition ended in 1932, the state permitted breweries and wineries to operate, but continued to ban the manufacturing of spirits. That ban was lifted in 1979.

It looks like distilleries are following the same growth pattern that wineries and breweries have in North Carolina -- which are booming!

Distillery operators must obtain a permit from the federal department of Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, a state ABC permit and a city or county business license.  Labels must also be approved. Bottles can only be sold at state ABC stores, which are required to have a separate section for North Carolina-made products.

Before Prohibition, North Carolina had more distilleries than any other state. Below is a recipe for you to try for your next get-together!  Enjoy!

 

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93rd Annual State Singing Convention, June 21-23

The oldest festival in the county and one of the oldest in the state began in 1921 as a treat for the town. Area church choirs met in an old tobacco warehouse to have a “sing.” About 200 people heard two choirs that day, but over the years thousands would come every year for the event.

Today, large audiences still gather June 21-23, 2013 at the Benson Singing Grove on Main Street where gospel groups come to compete for trophies.

When Simon Honeycutt suggested in 1921 that an annual singing convention should be held “for the development of the cultural and spiritual life of all people in song for the glory of God,” little did he or anyone else know it would become a week-end long event with thousands of people coming to hear hundreds of gospel singers.

Singers of all ages compete in the sing. Winners of the first singing competitions received Loving Cups which were provided by Sears retail store. Until 1950, when a covered stage was built and dedicated to the founders, temporary stages were built from lumber borrowed from R. F. Smith’s saw mill.

This year, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau provided grant funds to the Town of Benson for repairs and improvements to the Singing Grove stage and restrooms. For more information on the events at this year’s sing, visit www.gospelsingingconvention.org or call 919-894-4389.

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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

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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

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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