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

150th anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville draws 65,000

150th anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville draws 65,000

The 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville took place on Saturday and Sunday March 21st and 22nd, 2015. Saturday’s scenario was a reenactment of the “Fight for the Morris Farm,” while Sunday’s reenactment was of “the Last Grand Charge of the Army of Tennessee and Morgan’s Stand.” Besides the battle reenactments, guests enjoyed speeches by experts on Civil War history, camp cooking demonstrations, domestic demonstrations, medical displays and Harper House tours. More than 65,000 people participated in this year’s Sesquicentennial event, including 2,500 reenactors.


Confederate reenactors at their campsite.




Some of the crowd, being addressed by General Sherman


Some planned well for the day, bringing picnics and chairs.


History of the Site

The Battle of Bentonville was the largest Civil War battle in the state of North Carolina. General Joseph E. Johnston’s small Confederate army attacked one half of Major General William T. Sherman’s Union army as it marched north from Georgia on March 19, 1865. The 20,000 Confederate soldiers and almost 60,000 Union soldiers battled fiercely over three days. The Bentonville battle was the last offensive by a Confederate army in open territory during the war. The Confederates chose the tiny village of Bentonville to launch their attack on the Union army because it was the only crossroads in eastern North Carolina south of Goldsboro where the Confederates could concentrate their scattered armies. The Confederates hoped to defeat Sherman before Union reinforcements could arrive from Goldsboro.


Battle-weary Confederate Reenactors

The Union army had divided into two “wings” to enable a quicker march to Goldsboro. This split also gave the Confederate soldiers better odds since they only had to face half the Union soldiers at a time. The Confederate army battled hard, but outnumbered, couldn’t conquer the left wing of Sherman’s army. They retreated to attack the right wing on its arrival. They fought strong on March 20th, but when Mower’s Union reinforcements arrived on March 21st, the Confederates retreated across Mill Creek. Sherman let them go and continued to Goldsboro. 


Union troops prepare cannons for battle

One month later, Johnston surrendered his army to Sherman at Bennett Place in Durham on April 26, 1865. The first monument to the battle was not placed at Bentonville until 1895, and the second in 1924. Besides these two markers, the battlefield virtually went without interpretation until the 1950s.

Large Civil War reenactments such as this one began in 1990. Because of the tremendous amount of planning and infrastructure required to undertake these huge events, including the lengthy preparations made by Confederate and Union reenactors, they only take place every five years. Other years, a living history program takes place every March to further awareness and promote the history of Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site, as well as to raise funds to maintain and enhance the site.

About our sponsors

The reenactment is sponsored by the Friends of Bentonville Battlefield, Inc. an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose purpose is to support the preservation and interpretation of Bentonville Battlefield, North Carolina State Historic Sites, and the Johnston County Visitors Bureau. The event is part of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources’ commemoration of the Civil War’s sesquicentennial anniversary. Please visit www.nccivilwar150.com for more information about North Carolina’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.




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From Haunted Hay Rides to Vineyard Tours - The Past and Future of Agritourism in JoCo

From Haunted Hay Rides to Vineyard Tours - The Past and Future of Agritourism in JoCo

According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, "Agritourism is activity that incorporates tourism and agriculture by bringing individuals to farms, ranches, vineyards, and other agricultural enterprises.  Agritourism helps to educate the public and often generates income for farmers and agriculturalists.  There are many types of agritourism enterprises, including pick-your-own farms, agriculture museums, corn mazes, hay rides, winery tours, barnyard animals, etc."

Due to Johnston County's rich heritage associated with the land, this may not be the first time you have heard of or experienced agritourism. Many land owners who open their farms, ranches, and vineyards to the public do so in the name of education. With so much of the media dictating what we think we know about our food, agritourism allows farmers the opportunity to be more transparent about how our food and beverages are produced - from seed to store and from farm to table. Not to mention how fun agritourism is - picking your own blueberries, selecting a pumpkin to carve, tasting wine while exploring the vineyard the grapes were grown in, experiencing a southern sunset over a corn field.

But for tourists and locals like you, yes you, to enjoy picking fresh strawberries straight from the field, haunted hay rides, and adventurous corn mazes, farmers must first learn how to go about opening their land to you. Because of this need for education, Johnston County has previously offered workshops on agritourism with the hope of assisting local farmers who may be seeking ways to utilize their land and equipment to serve tourists. Thanks to these previous agritourism classes, many of which took place 10 years ago, right here in Johnston County there exists all types of agritourism options for visitors and locals. Families who owned farms like the Boyette's, the Thompsons, and the Browns utilized knowledge gained from attending the classes to set the foundation for agritourism in the county.

On that foundation exists old and new local businesses that have only grown with the consumer demand for farm to table experiences. Current trends show increased interest in agritourism surrounding the beer and wine market. Not just nationally, but right here in Johnston County. Wehave 4 wineries, 2 breweries, and 1 moonshine distillery where visitors can learn about the local ingredients that go into the beverages they get to enjoy in the tasting rooms.

One local farmer, Caroline Hines, stated both the benefits and obstacles that agricultural enterprises face when entering into and remaining profitable in agritourism. She has a family-owned farm outside of Micro called Hines Farm. They grow tobacco mostly and have not expanded into agritourism, but Hines is one example of the farmers that exist in the newest generation of agricultural professionals considering the opportunities and particulars involved in agritourism. According to Hines one of the most important aspects, and often the most baffling to farmers, is marketing and branding. She continued, "agritourism takes people visiting your operation and that takes branding your farm as a place people want to go. With most conventional farms you have a product and you sell it and that's it. You don't have to market your crops."

Project Skill-UP 2015 hopes to provide the opportunity for a new generation of local farmers to train for agritourism. The program hopes to provide the most current information on all aspects of agritourism for the counties farmers, vintners, brewers, and distillers. The classes are made possible by the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, Cooperative Extension, and the JCC Small Business Center.

The project will consist of 3 free seminars and a tour of local successful agritourism businesses:

  • March 24th - Agritourism: Then and Now - 7:00 PM

  • April 28th - Farm to Table - 7:00 PM

  • September 22nd - Agritourism Trails and Marketing - 7:00 PM

  • October 27th - Agri-Business Tour - Time TBD

Training topics include defining agritourism, how to be profitable, and how to market an agritourism venture. In addition, the seminars will cover the logistics involved in operation including insurance and preparing a farm for visitors. All events are free (with the exception of the tour lunch charge) thanks to a grant from the NC Tobacco Fund Commission and will be held in the Lampe Meeting Room, N Third St, Smithfield. To register, contact Rose Andrews at 919-209-2594 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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NC Beer Month Comes to JoCo Again

NC Beer Month Comes to JoCo Again

NC Beer Month Comes to JoCo

NC Beer Month is back this year, its third annual celebration, and highlighting the best craft beer in the state. Johnston County is not immune to the evolutionary trend of craft beer brewing; there are two locally owned and operated breweries right here in our back yard and they are gearing up for NC Beer Month. But, it's not just the breweries themselves getting ready to celebrate beer. Bottle shops, bars, and restaurants all over the county are joining in on the fun too. Ready, Set, Brew.

If you haven't already tried Double Barley Brewing or Deep River Brewing then run, don't walk, to their amazing facilities, complete with tasting rooms, in Smithfield and Clayton respectively. In honor of NC Beer Month both breweries are planning not only specially brewed beers just for the occasion but also a full schedule of events, beer dinners and release parties. But tap takeovers and beer dinners aren't possible without area partners assisting the breweries and keeping both Double Barley and Deep River on tap at establishments within the county and beyond. Because Clayton and Smithfield are so close to the Raleigh area, you can think of both breweries as Raleigh breweries. You can easily find them on tap at many of your favorite Raleigh hot-spots and hangouts.

Things to Brew... We Mean, Do

In April Deep River will be revealing three new beers - Carpetbagger Double IPA (a collaboration with Trophy Brewing), Collaboration Without Representation Milk Stout (a collaboration with Bottle Revolution), and Bitter Unicorn Tears India Pale Lager. Each of these beers will involve a release party at the Brewery with more details to come. In addition, the brewery will be celebrating 2 years with a much over-sue ribbon cutting ceremony. A beer dinner with the Flip Side Cafe is also in the works with details to come.

•    April 2nd - Official Ribbon Cutting at the brewery
•    April 2nd - 5th, 2015 - Two Year Anniversary Celebration at the brewery


Double Barley is also ready for NC Beer Month with multiple events at the brewery and beyond.  Double Barley will be releasing a new beer called Sexy Rexy. It is a red rye and the release party at the brewery will include live beach music and food specials. In addition, throughout the month of April there will be a tap takeover in the Double Barley taproom at the brewery highlighting a different NC craft beer every week. Double Barley will be hosting a fund raising event for KAM LIFE Village, giving adults with Autism life with purpose. It will include a silent auction, live music with Erin Nenni, and a pint glass with purchase.

•    April 2nd - Tap Takeover at the Cleveland Draft House, Clayton
•    April 3rd - Sexy Rexy Release Party at the brewery
•    April 8th - Beer Dinner, 7:00 PM at the brewery - ticketed
•    April 10th - from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM Fund Raiser for KAM LIFE Village
•    April 16th - Bottle Share focusing on NC beer at the brewery


Beer Hashtags and More

As we spring forward into warmer weather, April is the perfect month to get out into the county to celebrate not only beer, but the local, hardworking businesses responsible for that delicious cold drink in your hand. For more information regarding the listed events and contact information please visit the Deep River Events page here or the Double Barley Events page here. For more information regarding state-wide events for NC Beer Month please visit the website here. For those social media savvy beer-enthusiast follow all the latest, with the Twitter hashtag #NCBeerMonth or by subscribing to this helpful Twitter List here.


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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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Heritage Center To Unveil Civil War Exhibit

Heritage Center To Unveil Civil War Exhibit

An exhibit entitled, "American vs. American: Our Most Cruel War,” will open in the Holding-Richardson Exhibit Hall of the Johnston County Heritage Center on Saturday, March 7, at 2 pm.

As we prepared for the Bentonville 150th Event we found there are some amazing stories from this period in our history that had not been told, so area committees have been planning additional events coming up this March and April. The formal opening of the Heritage Center exhibit will include an appearance by Rev. Henry McNeal Turner (portrayed by Rev. Abdue Knox of Bethel AME Church near Selma), a famous U.S. Colored Troops chaplain who came through Smithfield in 1865. He will discuss two fascinating Smithfield accounts published in a Philadelphia newspaper during the war. 

What exhibits will be on display

Heritage Center Exhibit PanelThe displays will feature artifacts such as a Confederate infantry officer’s sword and hand-painted canteen, a rifle made at the Fayetteville Arsenal in 1864, a bugle played by a local soldier at Appomattox, wallet from a soldier with a girl’s tintype photograph still inside, Confederate currency, a saddle from a Union cavalryman’s horse, uniform buttons and other items unearthed by local citizens, a bayonet found in a tree near Bentonville, and church records bearing poignant messages from Union soldiers. There are also photographs from the war period, including a rare collection of tintype photos of U.S. Colored Troops.

The exhibit’s title panel shows Private William Lee of Johnston County wearing a U.S. Army uniform. Lee was one of the first men to volunteer in the Confederate Army in 1861, but for unknown reasons he later walked to federally occupied New Bern and volunteered to fight against his old comrades.
Johnston County was decidedly pro-Union throughout the war. Local voters sent Unionist delegates to the secession convention in Raleigh even after President Abraham Lincoln called for North Carolina to furnish troops for the U.S. Army.  The boys and men who fought in the war made up one tenth of the county’s population of about 15,000. Around 500 died from wounds or disease.

While deserters were hiding out in local forests and swamps to avoid capture by state militia in the spring of 1865, over 80,000 soldiers from North and South converged at Bentonville, leaving a path of destruction in their wake . Union soldiers burned several finer plantation houses in eastern Johnston County, although their superiors had not given such orders. The most well known incident was the Thomas Atkinson mansion on Brogden Road near the Wayne County line.

Johnston County Heritage Center is located at 241 E. Market Street, Smithfield, NC and for more information call 919-934-2836 or visit the center’s website, www.jcheritagecenter.org

Bentonville Reenactment150th Bentonville Battlefield Re-enactment

Later in the month of March, on the 21st and 22nd, the Friends of Bentonville Battlefield will host the largest Civil War battle re-enactment in North Carolina as one of the final 150th events in the state. 

Tickets purchased before March 15 are $12 for adults and $6 for children ages 9-12. Buying in advance also allows the purchase of a combination ticket for both days, March 21-22. That ticket is $20 for adults and $10 for children.

After March 15, remaining tickets will be sold at the gate for $15 for adults and $10 for children. Combination tickets will not be available. Children ages 8 and younger attend free.

The battle scenarios on Saturday and Sunday are the only events that require tickets. All other anniversary events – lectures, house tours, demonstrations and more – are free to the public. For complete information on the event, including ticket sales, visit www.150thBentonville.com 




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Explore new restaurants on the Clayton Food Tour

Explore new restaurants on the Clayton Food Tour

Independently owned restaurants continue to grow in popularity, spurred by passionate owners and chefs who are dedicated to creating fabulous culinary experiences. Good food offered in a great atmosphere is always a win, unless you don't know the restaurant is there! That's where the Clayton Food Tour comes in.

Partnering with local restaurants and shops, the Clayton Food Tour offers patrons the opportunity to experience a wide variety of restaurants in one evening. It's more than dinner out, it makes a great date night! My husband and I joined the last tour to see what it's all about. Despite living in Clayton for 13 years and being fairly well connected to the tourism industry, we found a few local places we didn't know we'd been missing! Traveling around town by limousine, we made some new friends along the way, like a couple who recently moved here from "the other coast." 


Our tour kicked off with fresh beverages at Juice Vibes. We enjoyed the "Big Bad Wolf," a refreshing blend of carrot, orange, apple, celery and lemon juice, which was light and tangy. We also got to sample one of their most popular smoothies, "All Hale to Kale" which includes kale, pineapple, banana, raw agave, lime, and coconut milk. It's topped with coconut flakes and hemp seeds. Give kale a chance with this fabulous, healthy drink! Juice Vibes is located at 11692 US 70 Business in Clayton, across from Lowe's.

We stopped at another restaurant I've never visited, but which is quickly becoming our go-to for carryout, Sak's Deli, which opened last April. Owner, Matthew Masisak, is dedicated to exceeding customers' expectations every time, and for me, he certainly did that. We sampled many dishes at Sak's Deli, all of them delicious, but if you've not visited yet, can I recommend the #15 --- Sak's Pizza Steak with homemade marinara, mozzarella and parmesan. This sandwich is made from the same steak as their Philly Cheesesteaks with the added goodness of sauce! Flavorful steak topped with warm sauce and gooey cheese --- oh yum! Sak's Deli is located at 876 Gulley Drive behind the Clayton Starbucks. Yeah… you know where that is. 


Getting to know each other at Sak's Deli

Our culinary adventure continued with stops at:

  • La Cucina Italiana, by the new Harris Teeter in Flower's Plantation, which has the most amazing pizza crust EVER! The restaurant has gotten 5-star ratings on every review site for good reason.
  • Rushing Buckets, at 119 Oleander Drive near East Clayton Elementary School, offers traditional and unique pizzas and local beer on tap (among other beverages). Open from 5-9 p.m. daily, Rushing Buckets also delivers.
  • Clayton Beverage Company, at 11679 US Business 70 West near Lowe's, offers more craft beer than I knew existed… probably since I'm not a big beer drinker. The owner and staff are committed to a quality experience and offer beer on tap or by the bottle or case. For the beer connoisseur, a visit here is a great idea!


Answering questions about Craft Beer at Clayton Beverage Company


Owners and staff welcoming us to La Cucina Italiana

Of course, no culinary experience is complete without dessert, and our tour included two stops. The limo driver dropped us off at Brick & Mortar, in downtown Clayton, where we enjoyed a sampling of cheeses, homemade cannoli and other pastries with a coffee liqueur. As always, the atmosphere and food were top notch. From there, we walked up the street to Sherry's Signature Cheesecakes at 120 E. Main Street, where we enjoyed coconut cheesecake and brownie bites in the casual dining area on the main floor. From here, we said good-bye to our hosts, Cindy and Melissa, and headed home stuffed!

About Clayton Food Tours

The monthly food tours allow up to 22 participants, providing plenty of personal attention and ample opportunity to enjoy the food. While there is some restaurant overlap, each tour is designed to encourage a unique experience. Some, like ours in January, travel throughout the greater Clayton area using a local limousine service. Others are focused on downtown eateries, allowing guests to enjoy a comfortable walking tour of all this town has to offer. 

  • Cost: $39/person, which includes dining, transportation (as appropriate) from downtown to the dining venues, take home menus and a discount card good for one visit to each participating establishment.
  • Unlimited passport: $149/person, which includes 4 dining experiences and relevant transportation, priority booking, two 50% off discounts for friends or family to use, and additional discounts to use at Clayton area restaurants and businesses. 

The next food tour, scheduled for February 17, has a Valentine's Day theme. Buy tickets online today. 

Gift certificates are also available for future use. 

We enjoyed the food tour, ate way too much and made new friends along the way. If you are new to Clayton or want to learn more about the culinary trend this foodie town has to offer, dinner through the Clayton Food Tour is a great way to do that! Clayton is also very close to the Raleigh area, so Clayton Food Tours would be a convenient and refreshing night out for couples or groups in the Triangle. Definitely include this on your list of Things to Do in Raleigh or the Johnston County area. Bring your appetite!


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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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JoCo Has Talent - A Classical Jonathan Levin

JoCo Has Talent - A Classical Jonathan Levin

Getting to work with talented and truly gifted artists like Jonathan Levin, a native of Clayton, is just one of the greatest perks of this job.  It's not very hard to write a few words in a blog or send out press releases to help our local artists. In comparison, concert pianists like Jonathan have literally invested thousands of hours of practice to bring us, the audience, a touch of classical music.

When interviewing Jonathan recently, I asked how do your fingers move so fast along the piano keys, and he replied "it's sometimes just muscle memory and they may move faster than my brain can remember the notes".  How scary, but that's when he relies on those thousands of hours of practice to come through for him and us.

This February 14th, for the third year, the Clayton Piano Festival will give a concert at the Historic Wagner House.  This year's performance is entitled, "Tales of Love from Beethoven to Broadway" and it will expand to include Violinist Michael Danchi and Mezzo Soprano Nora Graham-Smith.  Jonathan will himself perform this year and bring his own piano transcriptions of songs from the Great American Songbook.  Dinner will be served with a reception following the concert to meet the performers.  Tickets are $60.00 per person and available by calling 919-585-1221.

Jonathan is Artistic Director and Founder of the Clayton Piano Festival which seeks to create accessible, educational, world-class concerts and music presentations that uniquely enrich the cultural life of the area. The festival, which presented its first season of concerts, public classes, school outreach and other community events in February, 2012, aims to bridge the gap between performer and audience, bringing classical piano music to people of all ages and levels of exposure to the arts.  For the past three years, he has been Musical Director of Natchez Festival of Music's Educational Outreach Program and is also on the faculty of Remarkable Theater Brigade's Summer Young Artists Program for vocalists.  A sought after collaborative pianist, Jonathan has appeared on the Vox Novus/RTB Composers Voice Concert Series and has worked closely with respected voice teachers Paul Sperry and Monica Harte. 

Jonathan hopes to give that feeling of magic of live performance through interaction with his audience -- how lucky we are his wish and mission is to create magic!  Don't miss an opportunity to hear Jonathan play, or to engage him in conversation about music, photography (another of his passions)....his sense of humor is truly charming and his love for Clayton very obvious!

Jonathan, please don't stop bringing us a touch of magic to Clayton! 


 Jonathan Levin plays Gershwin/Wild Virtuoso Etude No. 4 "Embraceable You"

















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2015 NC Travel Guide cover features Bentonville Battlefield

NC Travel Guide CoverVisit NC, a unit of the new Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, announced on December 15th that the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site's Harper House will grace the cover of the 2015 NC Travel Guide.  There will be 600,000 guides printed to promote North Carolina, half with the Bentonville cover and the Outer Banks on the other half. 

This must be what it feels like to be on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.  For a tourism destination our size to make the cover of the state's top destination marketing piece, that's as good as it gets. What an honor for our historic site as they prepare for the 150th Reenactment events, March 21-22, the publicity value is tremendous.

In addition to the cover, the bureau has put together a Sweepstakes Get-a-way which will run on the Visitnc.com website until January 31st.  The offer includes a weekend stay at the Fairfield Inn & Suites with one-of-a-kind personal tours at Double Barley, Hinnant Winery and the Ava Gardner Museum.  The grand prize also includes gift cards to Carolina Premium Outlet, Serendipity Road Restaurant, and a gift bag from the Visitors Bureau.  A bonus for the winner will be tickets to the 150th Re-enactment at Bentonville Battlefield next March.

The North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development recently announced that domestic visitors traveling more than 50 miles to Johnston County spent $204.51 in 2013, an increase of 3.5 percent over 2012 figures.  Other signs the tourism industry is healthy in Johnston County includes new hotel development, investment in new tourism attractions, and openings of service industry businesses like restaurants, retail, and transportation companies.

The mission of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau is to attract and serve visitors to the county, therefore, improving the economic well-being of all communities through increased visitor spending and tourism development.  Find our more on our website, www.johnstoncountync.org/jc-tourism-authority 

Pictured left to right:  Lynn Daniels, Johnston County Tourism Authority, Wit Tuttell, Executive Director, Visit NC, Donna Bailey-Taylor,  Johnston County Visitors Bureau, Executive Director, Donny Taylor, Site Manager, Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site.



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Meet the new Johnston County Tourism Authority Board Members

Meet the new Johnston County Tourism Authority Board Members

In October, the Johnston County Commissioners appointed four members to the Johnston County Tourism Authority, two returning and two new members. The same month, the Four Oaks Chamber of Commerce announced one additional board member, making a total of five members appointed.

Jim Godfrey, President of the Clayton Chamber of Commerce was reappointed to a second three year term. Godfrey serves as chairman of the Johnston County Sports Council. Karen Henthorn, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Carolina Premium Outlets, was reappointed to a second three-year term, and she serves on the Johnston County Visitors Bureau Marketing Committee.

New members are Warren Stancil, owner of Interstate Outdoor, Inc., Rosa Andrews, Director of Economic Development at Johnston Community College, and Stacy Lee with the Town of Four Oaks Parks and Recreation Department. Stancil and Lee will serve on the Special Projects Committee and Andrews will serve on the new JoCo Hospitality Association. The Johnston County Tourism Authority is the governing board for the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, providing oversight for the room tax funds collected from area hotels. The board is charged with promoting the county's tourism assets, granting funds for special events, and capital funding for tourism development projects.

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina recently announced that domestic visitors traveling more than 50 miles to Johnston County spent $204.51 in 2013, an increase of 3.5 percent over 2012 figures.  Other signs the tourism industry is healthy in Johnston County include new hotel development, investment in new tourism attractions and openings of service industry businesses like restaurants, retail, and transportation.

In other news, the Tourism Authority Board elected  Keith Brinson, Johnston County Farm Bureau, to serve as Vice-Chairman and Lynn Daniels, Super 8 of Smithfield, to serve as Secretary. Ernie Brame, Kenly 95 Petro Truckstop, is the current Chairman of the authority and other members of the board include, Scotty Henley with The Clayton Center, Joseph Stallings from the Town of Benson, and Chad McLamb, Ex-officio County Finance Officer.

More information on the programs, budget, and activities of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau may be found on the website, johnstoncountync.org/jc-tourism-authority or by calling 919-989-8687. 


Photo Caption:  Members of the Johnston County Tourism Authority and Executive Director, Donna Bailey-Taylor. Pictured seated row left to right:  Donna Bailey-Taylor, Rosa Andrews, Ernie Brame, Lynn Daniels, Karen Henthorn; Standing row left to right: Jim Godfrey, Warren Stancil, Stacy Lee, Keith Brinson, Scotty Henley and Joe Stallings.

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Keep it traditional this Christmas - and easy!

Keep it traditional this Christmas - and easy!

In the world of destination marketing, trends like being a "Foodie", or becoming a culinary destination really are determined by the story or food experience your town/city can offer.  If you have to make it up (or your ad agency does) -- you are not authentic by any means.  Here in Johnston County we are keeping it traditional and with locally grown produce and food products -- we keep it Southern (not new Southern) and that's how we love it. 

Johnston County HamsWe are all very busy during the Holidays and to keep it simple, why not let some of the best local food businesses help you out for the Christmas meal.  That's okay if you let Linwood Parker of White Swan cook your ham or turkey, you fix the sides, and let family bring dessert, and you won't be too exhausted to open presents.

First step, let us share some time saving tips and resources to help with your Christmas feast.

  • Turkeys, Spiral Hams and Fresh Hams are available throughout the county, and many locations cook them for you.  Order about two weeks out -- locals know this is a popular treat and time saver.

    Johnston County Hams
    Stop by this popular store for country hams, spiral hams, smoked turkey, bacon, and more.  They don't cook products for you, but give out instructions and how-to's for preparing country ham.
    204 N. Bright Leaf Blvd, Smithfield

    Steven's Sausage Company
    They offer more than sausage here for the holidays, try country ham, spiral ham and of course, their sausage is wonderful for Christmas morning casseroles.
    3411 Stevens Sausage Rd, Smithfield

    White Swan BBQ
    Let the men roast the turkey and prepare the ham this year, and they also offer the full meal for ten people with meat, dressing, vegetables and tea.
    3198 US Hwy 301 S., Smithfield

    Smithfield Chicken N' BBQ
    There are three locations in Johnston County and more than 30 in the state...order a pork shoulder cooked low and slow and use your favorite BBQ sauce. Great addition for large groups! Check online for location and information on ordering.
    924 N. Bright Leaf Blvd., Smithfield, 919-934-8721
    10414 US Hwy 70 W, Clayton, 919-553-4553
    5180 NC Hwy 42 W., Garner, 919-773-0774

    McLamb's Abattoir
    Maybe your family likes to have beef for the Christmas meal, order a whole Rib Eye Roast from McLamb's or standing pork loin, and their sausage is wonderful too.
    623 Benson-Hardee Rd., Benson

  • Cooking the best cornbreads, biscuits, and tasty sides starts with quality flour and cornmeal.  Johnston County has two local companies known for quality products and they are the real deal.

    Atkinson's Mill
    Products include:  hush puppy mix, biscuit mix, seafood breader, chicken pastry, chicken stock and more.  Products are in some local stores, or you can purchase at the mill office or online.
    95 Atkinson Mill Rd., Selma

    House Autry Mills
    This nationally known product provides cooks with a variety of options, biscuit mix, corn meal, breaders and their website has tons of tasty recipes to try.  Products are available in area stores and online.

  • Want to order desserts too, you will find everything from 10 layer chocolate cakes, cheesecakes and cupcakes to satisfy your families sweet tooth.

    Sherry's Signature Cheesecakes
    Yum, Yum, Yum....Sherry's cheesecakes are wonderful.  We love to serve her desserts at our functions...you will too!
    115 First St., Clayton

    Nancy Jo's
    Looking for something extra special? You've found it. Twelve, yes 12 layers of moist yellow cake drenched in carefully boiled and stirred chocolate icing. Each layer is baked individually and iced while it is still hot. A true labor of love, our 12 Layer Chocolate Cake is an example of Southern baking at its finest.
    200 East Main St. Suite 102, Clayton

    Clayton Bakery
    Breads, cookies, cupcakes, pastries and cakes -- order from a grand selection.  And it's all very good!
    8928 US Hwy 70 E., Clayton

    Meadow Restaurant
    Order some of the area's best homemade cakes and pies from Meadow -- order soon!  Sorry no website for a list of available goodies, call for a selection.
    7400 NC Hwy 50 S., Benson

Now, that makes cooking for the family over the holidays....somewhat stress free!  Don't forget to shop local too for gifts!

Carolina Premium Outlets, JR Outlet, DeWayne's, Carolina Apparel and our downtown merchants around the county are offering great deals all holiday season long.  Click here for finding just the right gift for your love ones.

We so enjoy bringing our readers this BLOG, and sharing what makes our community so uniquely JoCo! (short for Johnston County!)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!




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JoCo Has Talent! - Young Abby Stephens

b2ap3_thumbnail_abby-guitar-pic.jpgJohnston County has a young aspiring talent in 11-year old Abby Stephens from Benson...maybe she'll be the next Carrie Underwood or even Taylor Swift.  Abby loves to perform country, Christian, classic rock and pop music too.  She is currently writing her own songs and she performs at area festivals and events.  Keep your eye on Abby, as she just recently appeared with Bob Dumas (and captured his heart!) on G105 Bob & the Showgram.  She is very poised and has a precocious personality and tons of Southern charm for such a young singer.

Abby discovered her love for music at the age of seven and began voice and piano lessons. Her music teacher encouraged her to audition for Clayton Idol Junior a local singing competition.  This was her first time singing for an audience and competing.  She will tell you when the lights hit her, "it was the best feeling ever" (her words). She went on to get first runner up and went back the next year and won! Winning Clayton Idol Jr. propelled Abby to continue to learn music through piano & guitar. She soon discovered she enjoyed putting her thoughts to music. With the help of her mom, she penned her first song, “Carolina Girl”.

At the age of eight, Abby began performing at various local sporting events. She is honored to have performed the National Anthem for the Durham Bulls, Carolina Mudcats, Southern National Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Blue Knights, and many other events.

Abby has performed at the Country Music Showcase at Johnston Community College in addition to many local festivals and other events. She opened for Amanda Daughtry this summer at Cary’s Booth Amphitheatre during the Raizin A Ruckus season.  In 2014 she auditioned for America’s Got Talent and received an initial call back, she is hoping to make it thru to the next round. She was honored to be nominated for Youth Artist of the year by the Carolina Music Awards and she was mentioned on the Bobby Bones Show, B93.9.

April Stephens, Abby's mom, doesns't call herself a soccer Mom, but a singer/songwriter's mom, and will continue to support Abby's dream as long as she loves it. Please feel free to contact her for future events at 919-625-0211 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

We hope she continues to love it and one day makes it to Nashville, TN.





Abby Stephens, William Byrd & Clae Wilson perform Wagon Wheel at the Country Bluegrass Show at Paul A. Johnston Auditorium. 












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JoCo Has Talent! - Meet Amanda Daughtry

JoCo Has Talent! - Meet Amanda Daughtry

For a series of BLOG articles, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau wants to introduce to our readers, a host of talented artists and performers from around the county.  First, we sat down with Benson's own, Amanda Daughtry, now living in Nashville, who is following her country roots to record, write, and sing her own songs. 

Amanda has been singing since she was 7 years old, and remembers singing along with the radio to Randy Travis (another North Carolina native).  Singing runs in Amanda's family, and she has been performing for many years in local theatres and country variety shows.  She was a regular on the Johnston Community College, Country Music Showcase hosted by another talented JoCo artist, Debbie Dunn.

Today, Amanda has a full-fledged band that travels the state, they are booked at festivals, private shows, bars and performance halls....putting over 5,000 miles a month on the touring van.  Life on the tour with the band is an adventure all its own, with many of these stories becoming the backdrop of Amanda's banter with her audience during shows.  Not only is she a talented vocalist, but she's a humorous story teller...we are guessing that talent makes for a great songwriter!

Amanda_DaughtryAmanda sings a vast array of current and classic country music, classic rock, and mainstream pop alongside songs of her own that she shares with those who are willing to listen. Any given night, there's not a chance that someone walks out of the show without having a great time. Amanda's success has been validated with opportunities to open for top country acts like Chris Young and Justin Moore.  On a recent late night at Double Barley Brewing, we had the chance to hear Amanda sing Brian Adams, Reba McEntire, Melissa Etheridge, and "Landslide" by Stevie Nicks, and loved it all! 

In Nashville, she's been writing new songs with a number of incredibly accomplished writers, all of whom have been linked to a number of the industry's best performers. Basing out of Nashville also gives Amanda the ability to book shows in a widening scope, branching into Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, and Texas, all while continuing to entertain a healthy fan base in North Carolina.  She's working on her next album which is expected out next April. She sent in an audition tape to The Voice a couple of years back and made it through several interview rounds, and she is considering another shot at the show. 

2014 Carolina Music Awards, Top Country Female Artist

Amanda was nominated in two categories, Country Female, and Female Artist and she was named the 2014 Carolina Music Awards, Top Country Female Artist, with 50% of votes coming from her fan base here in NC.

Amanda Gives Back to the Community

Along with her busy touring schedule, Amanda finds time to give back and coming up this December 6,  she will host a Toys for Tots Drive at the Country Connection, and on December 19, she will be at the Falcon's Children's Home.

And for the next generation of singing stars, she holds the Vocal Summer Camp which will be August 3-8, 2015.  Over 400 applications were submitted for the first camp held at the W.J. Barefoot Auditorium in Benson.  The camp will continue to be free offering an advanced and intermediate option where she hopes to give these budding singers encouragement, some voice instruction, and confidence to sing in front of audiences. Sign up for the camp will be open in April 2015.

Where to hear Amanda Play!

Hear a little taste of Amanda performing and follow her on social media so you can catch a show when she's back home in North Carolina.

Amanda Daughtry Original, "See Don't Look Like Me" -  An original song written by Amanda Daughtry and Rick Tiger.

















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The Halloween Bash at Brick & Mortar: Clayton's newest event venue


Pirates and zombies descended on Clayton, NC… and no, not for trick or treat. These characters gathered for dinner and dancing at Brick & Mortar, the newest events venue in town which features rustic brick walls and 30’ ceilings in a wide open space with bar, dining area and dance floor. Cozy nooks are built in, too, allowing for more intimate conversation. It’s a great addition to Johnston County’s ever expanding entertainment options.

My husband and I donned our pirate gear and headed out for the fun. We enjoyed an incredible buffet dinner, dancing and drinks. We both highly recommend this as a group night on the town!


A group from Riverwood enjoying the Halloween Bash

The location was once home to Mulberry on Main, one of the town’s premier independent restaurants. The owners, Jerry and Bernadette, enjoyed serving their customers through the years, but they recently closed the restaurant to focus on the catering side of the business. 

After a major remodel, Brick & Mortar Events began hosting weddings, corporate meetings and other special events. Desiring to remain connected to the community as a whole, they also offer public events for adults. The Clayton community can continue to enjoy the superior hospitality and great cuisine they’ve come to love from Mulberry on Main, in a new and memorable way.


About Jerry and Bernadette Gubitosi

Jerry was inspired to cook from a young age by helping his mom in the kitchen, preparing meals for their large, close-knit family. It’s no surprise that his career took him into restaurant kitchens from a young age. He learned from every chef he worked under, whether the pizzeria or the 4-star Italian restaurant. 

After he and Bernadette married, they opened their first restaurant in New Jersey in 1986. Their success is due, in part, to their family’s commitment to helping them. At that first restaurant, Jerry’s younger sisters would work weekends alongside Jerry and his parents. They were only 12 and 13 at the time, but they worked hard, earned their money and saved enough to buy their own cars at age 16. That’s a solid work ethic!

When Jerry and Bernadette moved their family to North Carolina, his extended family followed to support their dream. His mom still works Fridays, making her famous lasagna for the catering business. At Brick & Mortar, Jerry continues to run the kitchen. Bernadette and a couple of their adult daughters work front of house. Other family members work the bar and behind the scenes. This family’s commitment to a dream -- and to Clayton -- is evident in everything they do.


Welcome the New Year at Brick & Mortar

Brick & Mortar’s next event is coming up on New Year’s Eve, where you can welcome the new year with dining and dancing. Leave the cooking and planning to Brick & Mortar and invite your friends to join you! Ticket information will be available later this week at their website.

Events at Brick & Mortar

Advanced reservations are encouraged, though limited tickets may be available at the door.

Evening events are geared for adults.

A cash bar is available.

Parking is plentiful, whether in the side lot next to the building, on the street or in the main parking area at the corner of Main and Lombard streets. 

Certainly, the addition of Brick & Mortar to Clayton gives Johnston County residents (and our friends from the Raleigh area) a great opportunity to enjoy a night out on the town, without having to drive into the big city.




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Carolina Premium Outlets is "Extra Festive" This Thanksgiving Weekend

Carolina Premium Outlets is "Extra Festive" This Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks, spending time with friends and family, good food, and football (and lots of it, food, family and football!)  It has also become a holiday where, not long after leftovers are put away, people search for great deals on their Christmas shopping list. On Thanksgiving Day, November 27th, thousands of diehard shoppers will travel to Smithfield for “deals on top of deals” offered at Carolina Premium Outlets, which has stores opening their doors at 6pm this year.

It's quite the sight to see, lines in front of stores, waiting to get the best deal on items like Coach bags. We love that visitors travel here from all over the state and beyond making a weekend trip to Smithfield.  We wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving and that they get a great deal at Carolina Premium Outlets.

If you are coming shopping - here are the details!

Carolina Premium OutletsThe Extra Festive Weekend Sale featuring extended shopping hours are 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 27, 2014, through 10 p.m. on “Black Friday,” November 28, 2014.  On Saturday, November 29, the Center will open at 8 a.m. and close at 10 p.m., and will open on Sunday, November 30, at 10 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Carolina Premium Outlets is offering extra holiday hours to meet their customers’ needs - from the person looking for the latest fashion and styles of the season, to the family hunting for great deals, to the last-minute shopper in search of the perfect gift....with an impressive collection of fashion labels at savings of 25 to 65 percent every day for our shoppers during the holiday season.

Shoppers will enjoy exceptional holiday savings and extended shopping hours, plus, they will experience the biggest shopping event of the year.  Shopper appreciation programs will take place throughout the holiday season and include: random acts of gifting, holiday gift cards, holiday entertainment, and complimentary treats at Guest Services.

For the most up-to-date information, to check on store openings and special offers, visit the center’s website: www.premiumoutlets.com/carolina.  For hotel deals and places to rejuvenate and have a bite to eat, visit the official visitor website for Smithfield, www.visitsmithfield.org.



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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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Manning's offers new dining experience in Clayton

Manning's offers new dining experience in Clayton


Downtown Clayton welcomes its newest restaurant, Manning's, this Friday. Joining Clayton Steakhouse (opened in 2008), Lucky Chicken's Peruvian Restaurant and Festejo's Mexican Bar & Grill, Manning's is a welcome addition in Clayton. Chef Manning, who trained at Johnson and Wales, has more than 20 years experience as a chef including McKinley's Pub here in Clayton. The menu pulls from Manning's extensive experience, resulting in a flavorful twist on his favorites. Diners can look forward to low country dishes like shrimp and grits, and gulf coast gumbo. The restaurant also offers two bar areas, one downstairs and one upstairs, and an open air deck for outdoor dining.


Who is Chef Howard Manning?

Chef Manning and his wife, Jennifer, are opening Manning's this weekend. Chef Manning was raised in Marion, South Carolina and his been cooking since age 3! To say cooking is his passion might be an understatement. His first "official" culinary position was at age 14 when he worked at Camp Carolina in Brevard, NC. While there, he met many culinary student interns from Johnson & Wales, so it is no surprise he chose to get his formal training there. He worked at a number of prestigious restaurants across the southeast from South Carolina to Florida before coming to Raleigh several years ago. 

When the Mannings decided to make the Raleigh area their permanent residence, they bought a home in Clayton. Chef Manning traveled to and from Raleigh for quite a while, but then had the opportunity to work with the team at McKinley's Pub on Highway 70. Passing through downtown Clayton, Jennifer saw a for sale sign in the storefront at 406 E. Main Street, and a dream took its first step toward reality. They look forward to serving great food and becoming another anchor in this growing foodie destination.

What makes this restaurant unique?

This address has been a pharmacy and an auction house. The transformation to restaurant required considerable enhancements, including raising the roof on the second floor to create a light, airy casual dining area and rooftop deck. The first floor offers comfortable seating in the dining room, a bar area with large screen TVs and a private dining room that seats up to 25 comfortably. Keeping with the local, small town feel, he commissioned local artist, Kimberly Tracy to create a mural that features long-time local businesses. Take a look and see if your favorite made the wall.


The rooftop deck offers a unique outdoor dining experience, and tables are available on a first come-first serve basis. While waiting for tables, guests can enjoy a drink from the upstairs bar and relax on the benches that wrap around the deck. Live entertainment will also be featured here. Because parking is limited on Main Street, the Mannings added well-lit alley access to the rooftop deck. Park in the new lot at the corner of Main and Lombard Streets, cross Lombard and you'll see the stairs at the far end of the building on your right hand side. 

Details indoors tell a story that complements the food. To your right as you enter, you can't miss the long bench, called a Joggling Board, that runs in front of the window. The Joggling Board brings back fond memories from Chef Manning's childhood, and he knew that when he opened his own restaurant one day, the Joggling Board must be part of the experience. Toward the back of the main dining room, the industrial stained glass windows come from the original building, preserved and repurposed in the restaurant. If you walk up the ramp toward the kitchen and turn left, you'll discover items reminiscent of Chef Manning's childhood in South Carolina and his new home here in North Carolina. 

Even the Manning's logo has meaning. The cross hatch and three lines above the Manning's name are suggestive of a roof and stairs, an artistic nod to the restaurant's unique rooftop space.

What makes Manning's food different?

Of course, Chef Manning's training and experience are a benefit to this new restaurant. His staff, many of whom have worked with him at other restaurants, are seasoned veterans of the restaurant industry. The southern menu is different from other restaurants in town, offering diners a unique choice not previously available downtown. Most items on the menu can be adapted for gluten-free and other dietary restrictions.

While the southern entrees caught my attention, the menu offers a variety of options including American dishes, burgers and sandwiches, Cajun/Creole and vegetarian items. The menu is not too large, but offers a sufficient variety to suit every taste.


What are the restaurant hours?

Manning's will open to the public this Friday, October 17. The restaurant will be open six days a week (closed on Tuesdays):

Mon11:30 am - 9:00 pm
Wed - Thu11:30 am - 9:00 pm
Fri11:30 am - 12:00 am
Sat12:00 pm - 12:00 am
Sun12:00 pm - 8:00 pm
For reservations, call 919-550-2433.
For directions to the restaurant at 406 E. Main Street, Clayton, click here
To learn more visit their website. You can also follow Manning's on Facebook and Twitter.

 **Photos provided by and used with the permission of Divine Marketing Group.


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JoCo Visitors Bureau Wins Four Destination Marketing Awards

Each year in the fall, the Destination Marketing Association of NC, the state's trade association for Convention & Visitor Bureaus, hosts an education conference and awards competition.  Statewide visitor bureaus submit works in marketing , printing, web based promotions, and tourism initiatives for their prospective communities and based on budget size they are judged by industry professionals.

This year's conference held in Winston-Salem concluded this week, and the Johnston County Visitors Bureau received four Destination Marketing Awards in the small bureau category. 

"To be recognized by our peers in the state is certainly an honor, and a confirmation for our staff's hard work promoting Johnston County, " stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director.  The Johnston County Visitors Bureau is comprised of a staff of five and all marketing campaigns, design, websites, and special projects are handled in-house by the staff.

Awards won by the JCVB were;  Gold - 301 Endless Yard Sale, Gold - Johnston County Visitors Guide, Platinum - Beer, Wine, Shine Trail brochure, Platinum - Our State Magazine Campaign.

Destination Marketing Initiative – Web based, 301 Endless Yard Sale.

The 2nd Annual 301 Endless Yard Sale was twice as successful in 2014, as it expanded to 100-miles and four counties.  This campaign was national in scope and included publicity, website adword campaigns, social, radio, and print advertising.  The event FB page grew from 350 likes to over 5,000 during the promotional time frame of Jan-June.

The event was expanded this year to a 100-mile yard sale and brought in the CVBs from Halifax, Wilson, and Harnett counties as partners. The organizing committee coordinated the marketing through the JCVB and town officials handled issues like signage, parking, permits, and food vendors.  This year's event had over 500 vendors and more than 5,000 shoppers for the two day sale.  Vendors reported high sales, hotels reported overnight stays, and restaurants were very pleased with sales. The Bureau created a website, www.301endlessyardsale.com to be the centerpiece of event marketing; Google Analytics from May-June were 24,155 unique visitors and 90,476 page views. 

This year's event included a vendor survey with key results and points  noted by the committee were:  35% of  vendors heard about the event from WRAL,  followed by 30% website, 30% Facebook;  76% of vendors sold on both days with average sales of $500 each day; 81% of vendors found their spot because they knew the property owner;  79% of vendors sold yard sale items, 48% collectibles and 38% antiques; 83% of vendors plan to come back next year. 

Destination Publications – Johnston County Visitors Guide

The Johnston County Visitors Guide remains the primary marketing piece for the destination, and the bureau continues to print and distribute 90,000 guides each year. 

This year's visitors guide was redesigned to be more of a magazine format, and to cut back on alphabetical phonebook-style listings.  Our goal was to tell more stories and share experiences with visitors in the beginning of each section of the guide.  In addition, unique landing pages were developed to drive visitors to our websites pertaining to their special interests.  The visitors guide is a non-advertising piece that promotes hotels, dining, attractions, outlet shopping, antique shops, specialty retail, festivals/events, meeting venues, sports facilities and transportation services.  The main message or purpose of this brochure is to drive visitors to tourism-related businesses, therefore increasing visitor spending in the community.

The guide is the fulfillment piece for the bureau’s adverting efforts and is distributed in all NC Welcome Centers, visitor centers and local industry to use while assisting visitors.  The piece is highly used by local front desk staff as the most valuable piece the bureau produces.  The bureau has now hired a part-time staff person to distribute the guide to over 125 racks around the county to get brochures to all hotels, attractions, key restaurants, and high traffic locations.

Niche Marketing Piece – Beer, Wine, Shine Trail Brochure.

Three years ago, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau developed the Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail, and since then over 1,000 people have completed the trail.  Now with two breweries, and a distillery in the county, we have re-concepted the trail and re-branded the trail to include these new partners.

(25,000) Beer, Wine and Shine Trail Brochures were printed   Trail brochures were distributed to NC Welcome Centers, area Visitor Centers, hotels, attractions, and other high traffic areas in the county.  PDF versions were placed on websites as well, with a new www.beerwineshinetrail.com website launched to support the trail

Cost of the trail brochure, $4,500, was completely covered by the six partners and the response from new breweries has been very positive to date as a way for their business to stand out and cross promote with the wineries in the county.  The website has an incentive to join our email marketing list, with a monthly drawing for a mason jar mug with a trail graphic logo.

Destination Print Advertising – Leisure, Our State Magazine Campaign.

This campaign was targeted to individual leisure visitors in the North Carolina market with an added twist for readers to receive a free gift offer.  Our State Magazine does not offer reader cards, so our campaign was designed to measure response to the ad in addition to phone inquiries.

This print advertising campaign was themed based on the top travel generators for Johnston County -- Fall festivals, Holiday Shopping, History/Civil War events, and Spring Festivals.  Each ad campaign had a unique landing page on our www.johnstoncountync.org website, so performance could be tracked, as well as, the request for FREE gift.

The tracking methodology was especially telling as to what Our State Readers responded to the most.  This type of data on visitor interest is tremendously helpful in planning ad campaigns in the future to deliver content of interest to Our State readers.  The response for the FREE gift was consistent throughout the campaign generating approximately 100 requests each.

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau is funded by the county-wide 3% room tax paid by visitors to the county.  For more information on the bureau's activities visit the website, www.johnstoncountync.org or call 919-989-8687.


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Get Tickets Early for the 150th Bentonville Battlefield Event

150th Anniversary Reenactment, 2015For more than 18 months, staff, volunteers, and board members of the Friends of Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site have been planning for the largest event ever expected for the community.  Nearly 5,000 re-enactors are expected from around the country to participate in the March 21-22, 2015 Civil War 150th anniversary commemoration.  They will re-create the last major battle and the largest land battle fought on North Carolina soil as the end of the war drew near.  The public is invited to watch the action!  Expectations are more than 60,000 will travel to the site over the weekend! 

In addition to the daily battles, the weekend will feature free lectures, 19th century medical displays, period music, and dozens of "sutlers", selling Civil War related items.  Advanced tickets for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity are now on sale online at www.150thbentonville.com, at the site via the gift shop, or by calling (910) 594-0789.  Checks can be mailed to:  Bentonville 150th Event Tickets, P.O. Box 211, Newton Grove, NC  28366.

Important information to know about the event:

  • Tickets for the re-enactment are limited and advance purchase is strongly encouraged.  Fewer tickets are available in 2015 as event organizers are trying to maximize the visitor's viewing opportunities.  Battles take place on large open fields, and not all aspects of the battle are viewable by all visitors.
  • Advanced tickets are $12.00 for adults and $6.00 for children 9 to 12. After March 15 and at the gate, tickets are $15 adults and $10 children 9 to 12.
  • The battle scenarios Saturday and Sunday are the only events that require tickets.  All other activities at the 150th Anniversary Event (lectures, house tours, music, demonstrations) are FREE to the public
  • Saturday's Battle, "The Fight for Morris Farm" will take place at 3pm.  Visitors are encouraged to be at the battle location by 2pm, as sections for ground seating, chairs and standing room only will fill up fast.  Please note that battles will not begin until those seated on the ground are in place.
  • Sunday's Battle, "Last Grand Charge of the Army of Tennessee and Morgan's Stand" will begin at 1:30pm.  Visitors are encouraged to be at the battle location by 12N as seating will fill up fast.

The 2015 event is sponsored by the Friends of Bentonville Battlefield, NC Historic Sites and Properties, the NC Department of Cultural Resources and the Johnston County Visitors Bureau.  Bentonville's re-enactment is part of North Carolina's Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration.  All proceeds from the event support Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site with a percentage to be used for improvements of the site's visitors center. 

Address:  5466 Harper House Road, Four Oaks, NC  27524
Phone:    910-595-0789
website:  www.nchistoricsites.org/bentonvi/bentonvi.htm













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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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