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JCVB Blog

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

Trail Rides, Theater Dinners, and Tasting Tours

Trail Rides, Theater Dinners, and Tasting Tours

Celebrate Valentine’s Day in JoCo



Black Creek Hill Farms Valentine's Day Couples Trail Ride
February 14th by reservation only

Includes a 1-and-a-half-hour trail ride for two including a simple picnic lunch with beverage of choice. Information available by calling 919-524-5096.

Private Candle Light Valentine's Tasting & Tour
February 12th through the 26th by reservation only

This couples package includes a private candle lit guided wine tasting for two in one of our barrel gallery rooms, a selection of meats, cheeses, and chocolates to accompany your tasting, a private guided tour of the Winery, two souvenir stemless wine glasses, and a bottle of wine of your choice. Sit back, relax, and enjoy each other while savoring a variety of wines paired with a selection of tasty treats.

Tickets and information available here.

The Clayton Piano Festival presents the 5th Annual Valentine's Day Gala at the Wagner House
February 14th at 6:30PM

Internationally acclaimed husband and wife duo, Craig Ketter, piano and Valerie Gonzalez, soprano take listeners on a journey through some of the greatest solo piano and vocal works having to do with love of all kinds - successful, unsuccessful, dramatic or humorous.

Ticket price includes a four-course dinner, concert, and reception. Tickets and information available here.

The Good ‘Ol Girls Dinner Theater at Gregory Vineyards
February 11th at 5:00PM

Two of Nashville's leading singer/songwriters redefined the modern Southern woman in Good Ol' Girls, a musical about love, loss and laughter. The price includes the show and a prime rib dinner served with salad, baked potato, cheesecake, and tea. The evening begins between 5:00 and 5:30PM.

Please contact Gregory Vineyards at (919) 894-7700 to reserve your seat. More information is available here.

Valentine Food & Wine Tour
February 9th at 6:00PM

Eat, Drink & Fall in LOVE on our Valentine's Food Tour! More information is available here.

Harbor Valentine Ball 2017
February 11th at 7:00PM

Raise awareness and money for a fantastic local organization that aids survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault! Harbor's Valentine Ball will feature music from the Central Park Band, a silent auction, and great food! Attendees will receive two wine/beer tickets and there will also be a cash bar.

Call 919-938-3566 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to purchase tickets! Purchase tickets by February 8th. More information available here.


For an on-going list of events happening in Johnston County, including additional Valentine’s events that could be added as details are finalized, go to www.johnstoncountyevents.com.

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Rebekah Todd Brings the Hustle in New Album

Rebekah Todd Brings the Hustle in New Album

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

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

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

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


Originally posted July 10th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for taking the time Rebekah, you rock!

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American Music Jubilee Christmas Show Is Here

American Music Jubilee Christmas Show Is Here

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Scenic Settings and Summer Sounds

Scenic Settings and Summer Sounds

Warm summer evenings call for a cold drink and some tunes. Thankfully, there are quite a few places in Johnston County where you can have both. We’ve rounded up musical performances happening around the county over the next month. Click through the links to find out more about each one. Also, don’t forget to follow the Johnston County Visitors Bureau on Facebook or visit www.johnstoncountyevents.com to stay up-to-date on events happening in the county.

July 23rd – Bluegrass Fest at the Farm – gates open at 11:00am
Performers include The Malpass Brothers and Al Batten & The Bluegrass Reunion. Bring a chair or a blanket and enjoy some of the best bluegrass acts round.

July 24th – Live Music on the Front Porch – 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Hinnant Vineyards has a glass of chilled wine and Wade Hill ready to serenade you on the front porch as you gaze about you at the lush vineyards.

July 29th – The Little Mermaid – 7:00am
The Clayton Youth Theater presents The Little Mermaid, a musical sea adventure for all ages. If you can’t catch it on the 29th be sure to visit their website for other dates and times. The show runs through the 6th of August.

August 11th – Sun down in Downtown Concerts – 5:30pm to 9:00pm
Come to the Benson Singing Grove to listen to Jim Quick and the Coastline Band. Bring a lawn chair and a picnic basket to make an evening out of it.

August 20th – An Evening with Gaylon Pope and Sweetwater – 8:00pm to 10:00pm
The Rudy Theatre, home of the American Music Jubilee, presents a special evening with Gaylon Pope.

August 20th – Clayton Town Square Concert Series – 5:30pm to 9:30pm
This month’s concert features Kasey Tyndall with the Big River Band. Evenings on the town square are made even better by the presence of Deep River Brewing and Wine on Main to provide libations while you jam.

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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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New Mondo Roots Festival Grows Music Line-up

New Mondo Roots Festival Grows Music Line-up

 

 

Mondo Roots Cultural Arts and Music Festival is a celebration of diversity, art and music. It is a free to all ages event taking place in Downtown Clayton, NC on Saturday, June 4th starting at 1:00PM. Performances include The Lee Boys, Sol Driven Train, Black Masala, The Amateurs and many more.

According to Dave Brown, owner of EarthPlow Productions and event organizer, "Mondo Roots Cultural Arts Festival is the first festival of its kind on the eastern side of the state!  It is going to feature live music that is as inspirational as it is eclectic.  Our musical genres are going to span from Soul and R&B, to Reggae and Rap, to Blues and everything in between."

Brown has been steadily adding to the line-up and he's excited about the well-rounded mix of sound, "We have a true vinyl Dj that will be spinning old reggae with a new twist between sets. Black Masala (pictured below) is rooted in the second line tradition of New Orleans, this band  is going to make you feel like you are standing on Bourbon Street.  To round out the lineup we are going to have two of the most popular reggae bands in Raleigh, the Amateurs and Jamrock Reggae."


Brown is partnering with Clayton Visual Arts to create a festival that is inclusive of all cultures and walks of life. They felt it was time for something like that in Clayton, an event that can celebrate diversity and empower the community. For those visitors and locals who have attended Millstock Arts & Music Festival in the past, Brown says the only thing this event shares with that is the date, "When Millstock closed the curtain it opened an opportunity to create something special from scratch. We are very happy with our partnership with Clayton Visual Arts to create something this special and unique. Visitors would be hard pressed to find a lineup of music this strong that you can enjoy for free. The bands that will be performing have a long track record of packing venues up and down the eastern seaboard. This festival is not a Clayton festival, this festival is for the whole eastern part of the state, it just happens to be set in the heart of the great town of Clayton."

According to Brown the whole point of Mondo Roots is celebrating diversity and empowering the community.  It's powerful and simple, "Our vision on a more personal level is to grow this festival to expand the minds and hearts of everyone that is involved.  If you attend, you are part of this family and part of this movement.  We are going to see a lot of different cultures and some of the greatest artists that this state has to offer."


In addition to all the music there will be LIVE performing artists (like local Clark Hipolito, pictured above) painting murals, sculpting, and even doing chainsaw art.  The festival has over 70 tents spoken for by artists, vendors, and sponsors.  There will also be multiple food trucks set-up, as well as a beer tent, so bring your appetite!

If you're a lover of diverse music and art, be sure to travel to Clayton in a few weeks to experience this festival for yourself. There's plenty to do in Johnston County so make a weekend getaway out of it. You can also find more information about the Clayton area at the Visit Clayton website. Mondo Roots starts at 1:00PM on the 4th of June, rain or shine. For more information visit www.MondoRoots.com.

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Beer Wine & Shine Trail

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Travel around the county to four award-winning wineries, two breweries and get a taste of brandy along the way!  Receive a Free $30 coupon book when you complete the trail.

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Meeting Planners

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

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We have created several special hotel packages including a Girlfriends Getaway for outlet shopping, we know you need a break and great deals on shoes!  Click here to book your getaway today.

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FREE TRAINING

 

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