FacebookTwitterPinterestYouTubeGoogle PlusInstagram


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

JoCo Breweries Participate in NC Beer Month

Deep River Brewing Co. In just one short year, Johnston County has entered the craft beer industry with two breweries opening in 2013.  Deep River Brewing in Clayton, opened their doors in April 2013 and Double Barley Brewing opened in September.  As our new breweries build awareness, expand distribution and gain new customers, they have the opportunity for the first time to be part of the NC Beer Month, April 1-30.

The NC Division of Tourism, Film, and Sports Development is celebrating "all things beer" across the state from Asheville to Wilmington in 26 communities.  North Carolina now has over 100 breweries and this industry continues to grow like the wineries around the state.  The month-long list of activities includes festivals, sweepstakes, hotel packages, food parings in area restaurants and much, much more.  You can follow activities on Twitter, Google+ or use #NCBeerMonth to keep connected.

In our area of the Triangle (only 30 minutes east of Raleigh), Deep River will be hosting a First Year Anniversary Party on April 4-6 with new brews, food, music and a whole lot of fun.  We have enjoyed getting to know Paul and Lynn Auclair this year, working together to expand our Wine Trail to include breweries and to promote their events.  Likewise with Larry and Cheryl Lane of Clayton, we have found brew masters are fun, creative, hard-working folks and we think the world of both couples....and we thank them for choosing Johnston County to open their businesses.  Double Barley Brewing's Lounge-like Tap Room also offers a variety of appetizers.

  Double Barley Brewing
As a marketing organization...we want to bring more visitors to Johnston County, and by working closely with our breweries and hotels, we have several special rate offers for NC Beer Month on our website.  Visitors will enjoy hotel discounts, as well as, coupon offers from the breweries upon check-in.

For the full list of special events at the breweries for live music, food trucks, and other happenings, visit their website calendars for details.  And for an in-depth look at each business, visit our landing page, www.johnstoncountync.org/jocobreweries  ... we know you will love their unique brews and getting to know Paul, Lynn, Larry and Cheryl.

Happy NC BEER MONTH...let us know what local brews are your favorites!  Post up your picture with your favorite brew on our Facebook page and receive a set of JoCo Postcards!


Continue reading
2322 Hits

Johnston County heads to New York!

New York Media Mission Public LibraryWelcome to New York...the city that never sleeps! The Big Apple! The media capital of the world! Okay...I know that last one doesn't sound as exciting, but when part of your job is to get people visiting and writing about your county then this is a big deal.

For the second year I got the opportunity to head to New York City to participate in the New York Media Mission. The North Carolina Division of Tourism puts this event together for destinations and visitor bureaus across the state to pitch their specific attractions to a variety of New York media outlets. This includes big names like The New York Times, Rachel Ray Show, CBS News, etc., but it also includes freelance writers and bloggers.

The event took place in a gorgeous room at the New York Public Library, where people from all over North Carolina came to promote their destination. There were also restaurants and North Carolina-based food and drinks being served. The atmosphere was very laid back and welcoming for all the New Yorkers coming to see what North Carolina had to offer.

This particular media mission always makes me a little nervous. I'm never sure how much interest Big City people have in small, rural towns-- although they do love the accent. This year I was pleasantly surprised. I talked to many people about how we have embraced the agritourism concept, and the transition of farms into attractions. Many of them were also interested in our new breweries and distillery (Deep River Brewing, Double Barley, and Broadslab Distillery) that use locally grown products to create their drinks. They wanted to hear more on our food, our festivals, and our Hollywood starlet, Ava Gardner. Throughout the event there were many questions asked about our wonderful county and I left satisfied with how it went (I even got some of them saying "y'all").

Set up for New York Media MissionWhile I was up there I did some sight-seeing, but it was extremely cold. Since I didn't have much time, I bundled up (fleece leggings became my best friend) and toured the city. A high of 17 degrees meant I was visiting places that involved hot drinks. I was there the week before the Super Bowl so the excitement was building and fans of the Broncos and Seahawks were starting to arrive. I had never been to New York City while it was snowing, so I had to visit Central Park with inches of snow. It really is a spectacular city.

With the threat of bad weather back here, I had a second of worry that my flight was going to be cancelled, but I was lucky enough to have North Carolina welcome me home with more snow and temperatures just as cold as New York!

I had so much fun in the little bit of time I spent in New York City. From the people I met (both New Yorkers and fellow North Carolinians) to braving the cold, this event makes me appreciate Johnston County even more. We know how much our small towns have to offer and I am lucky enough to spread that nationwide.

Continue reading
1931 Hits

Howell Woodstock Moves Event to April

DSC_0030The organizers of the Howell Woodstock event took last year off to transition the event to the springtime versus a early November date.  The thought process behind the move included several benefits for attendees, including:  fishing for the children, better weather for hiking and outdoor activities, and prime bird-watching opportunities.

So this year's event is scheduled for Saturday, April 5th, with exhibitors, kid's activities, and hayrides beginning at 1pm and running until 5pm.  Astronomy seminars continue after 5pm and the nighttime Statewide Star Party activities begin at 8pm.

Families are encouraged to bring a fishing pole to try your luck in the Savannah Pond located near the front of the property.  Other activities include nature hikes, rock wall climbing, hayrides, mobile fish aquarium, art exhibits, live music, BB gun range, inflatables and other rides and s'mores when the sun goes down.

Educational programs begin at 2pm in the Learning Resource Center with the following topics:

2pm     Soaring with Raptors
3pm     Living with NC Venomous Snakes
4pm     Micro Structures of Animals
5pm     Exoplanets
6pm     Black Holes
7pm     Weather on Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn

Also enjoy local BBQ from White Swan, Zaxby's, door prizes, and much more!  Howell Woods is located at 6601 Devil's Race Track Rd., I-95, Exit 90, near Four Oaks, NC.  Event takes place "rain or shine", and for more information visit their website, johnstoncc.edu/howellwoods or call 919-938-0115.

Continue reading
1741 Hits

Ava Gardner Honored in Spain and Museum Exhibits Artifacts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading
1950 Hits

301 Endless Yard Sale Expands in NC

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading
2313 Hits

Ava Makes the Cover of Our State Magazine

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

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

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

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

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





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

Continue reading
2091 Hits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading
1728 Hits

"Moonshine" now Legal in Johnston County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Continue reading
2304 Hits

Needing a Meeting Facility?

New county-wide Meeting Facilities Guide printed in 2014. New county-wide Meeting Facilities Guide printed in 2014.

We've got you covered. Not just for your normal business meetings, we have many unique venues for weddings, family reunions, conferences, and outdoor spaces for shows, concerts, and expos.

One of our new marketing pieces is the Meeting Facilities Guide, a printed piece promoting Johnston County as a prime meeting destination in the Triangle. Why not try something new, convenient and affordable? Here are a few reasons why you should plan your gathering in our county.

    •  Just 30 minutes from the Triangle area.
    •  Conveniently located along interstates I-95 and I-40.
    • Unique venues such as historic homes, wineries & breweries, and outdoor spaces.
    • A variety of hotels, restaurants, and shops to entertain your guests.
    • Venues are affordable and accessible.
    • The Visitors Bureau is here to help assist planners with site inspections, bids for space, leads for group hotel rates, and conference services (a MAJOR plus!).

Johnston County's largest auditorium space is the Paul A. Johnston Auditorium in Smithfield that seats 1,000 and for sit-down meals the Ag-Center in Smithfield and The Farm outside of Selma hold approximately 400 people. If you aren't looking for a large space, there are several intimate venues such as the newly opened Brick & Mortar in Clayton and the Preston Woodall House in Benson.

As the demand for meeting space grows, local business leaders are expanding to accommodate inquiries. On our part, we plan on attending more meeting related tradeshows to make connections with planners in a variety of regions. To receive a copy of the Meeting Facilities Guide or to learn more about meeting in Johnston County, please contact us at 919-989-8687 or search our website, www.johnstoncountync.org.

Continue reading
2037 Hits

2014 Visitors Guide Published

2014 Visitors Guide has New Format 2014 Visitors Guide has New Format

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau (JCVB) is pleased to announce the arrival of the 2014 Official Johnston County Visitors Guide.  This year’s guide has a new concept as a “destination” planner giving visitors additional tools to plan a visit with suggested itineraries, feature stories on area businesses, and travel deals.  The guide features several themed sections with editorial copy introducing visitors to the destination, with a center map of Carolina Premium Outlets, which by far is the largest attraction in the county.

The upcoming 150th Battle of Bentonville Reenactment is the featured event on the cover of the new visitors guide, which will take place March 21-22, 2015.  That may seem far away, but this guide will be on the shelf for the next twelve months and will be used in many upcoming advertising campaigns to promote the event.

JCVB prints 90,000 Visitors Guide each year to promote the county and the guide is entirely sponsored by the 3% county-wide occupancy tax, which is paid by visitors to the county.  Guides are distributed to all NC Welcome Centers in the state, RDU International Airport, AAA Offices along the eastern seaboard and along I-40 west.  Guides are in visitor centers across North Carolina, as well as, around the county in more than 100 locations such as hotels, attractions, Chambers of Commerce, town halls and retail stores.

If you are planning a trip through North Carolina along I-95 or I-40...or you are looking for a short weekend get-a-way for golfing or shopping, call us for a new Visitors Guide at 1-800-441-7829!

Continue reading
1752 Hits

Christmas Lights Provide Holiday Cheer

December is packed full of events, parties, and shopping...why not enjoy a drive through the country-side for a Christmas Lights show!  Johnston County is lucky to have two locations where you can visit to see a wide variety of outdoor light shows and displays this holiday season. Meadow Lights in Meadow, NC is a gorgeous display of thousands of lights that continues to amaze audiences with familiar scenes; while every year they seem to add new displays.  Lights on the Neuse, in Clayton, NC, allows you to experience holiday scenes on a hayride around the farm and end the evening around the campfire with s'mores!  Kids and adults will have a wonderful time ...remember to bundle up!

4546 Godwin Lake Rd.
Benson, NC 27504

Meadow Lights Meadow Lights is the perfect holiday attraction for the family.

The Meadow Lights is one of the largest and oldest Christmas Lights Shows in Eastern NC, starting when the owner wanted to decorate his home and yard for his children to enjoy. These decorations grew and grew over the years, and soon others in the community started to enjoy the lights also. As the community got involved, so did the number of people wanting to see them. Today, there is over 30 acres of lights and people from all over the state come to experience them. To get the full experience families of all ages can take a train ride through the lights and see all the animations up close. Before you leave you have to stop at The Old Country Store where Santa and every type of candy, preserves, drinks, and much more are waiting for you. This year don't miss out on the carousel rides. If you haven't been to the Meadow Lights, head out there this year and you won't be disappointed. Who knows - it might even become a family tradition for years to come!

1620 Loop Rd.
Clayton, NC 27527

lights_on_neuse_barn Take a stroll through the enchanting 3D Christmas house at Lights on the Neuse

Located in Clayton, NC, Lights on the Neuse allows families and friends to get together to celebrate the magic of Christmas. The main attraction is the Christmas Hayride, a one-mile long, 30-minute old-time tractor-pulled hayride through a beautiful Lights Extravaganza, filled with Christmas music and holiday magic. While you're there take a tour of The Christmas Barn to see an enchanting 3D Christmas house and buy some old-fashioned Christmas candy, hot chocolate, or a wonderful s'mores kit that you purchase and cook at the picnic area. Don't forget to bring your camera to get a picture with Santa! Call or visit their website for ticket information and details.



Tis the season all around the county for Christmas Parades and Christmas Tree Lighting Events in every town. For a full list and schedule of holiday events visit our website at www.johnstoncountyevents.com and enjoy the magic of Christmas with friends and family.

Continue reading
1602 Hits

Midnight Madness Shopping hits Carolina Premium Outlets

Carolina Premium Outlets Shop for Midnight Madness and After-Thanksgiving shopping deals at Carolina Premium Outlets in Smithfield, NC, I-95, Exit 95.

While football games keep many families in front of the television set on Thanksgiving Day, there will be thousands of diehard shoppers traveling to Smithfield on Thursday, November 28th for the “deals upon deals” offered at Carolina Premium Outlets.  Just hours after the turkey leftovers have been put away, shoppers will start lining up long before the official “midnight” hour for this annual event, which has pushed some stores to open their doors as early as 8pm.

“We know the outlets will be the center of activity in Smithfield on Thanksgiving Weekend and we love that our stores will be packed,” said Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director, Johnston County Visitors Bureau, “we know and embrace the fact that outlet shopping is our number one attraction in Johnston County.”

The After-Thanksgiving Weekend Sale featuring Midnight Madness extended shopping hours areFri, Nov 29: Midnight-10pm,  Sat, Nov 30: 8am-10pm and Sun, Dec 1: 10am-8pm. Shoppers will enjoy exceptional holiday savings and extended shopping hours, plus, they will experience the biggest shopping event of the year.

For the most up-to-date information, visit the center’s website, to check on store openings and special offers: 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.

Continue reading
1802 Hits

Pecan...Doesn't Matter How You Say It

Pecan Map How do you say pecan?

Pecan. I know we have all had the discussion on how to say this word. So let's all take a moment to look at and say all the variations of this word (while you're doing this, click the U.S. map I found showing how the different regions pronounce it...who knew some Northern states say it the same way as Johnston County).

"pee-KAHN"    "pick-AHN"   "PEE-can"    "PEE-kahn"

Being born and raised in Johnston County, I use "PEE-can", drawing out the "E" a little more than necessary. But no matter how we differ in our pronunciations, I think we can definitely agree that pecans are delicious. They add just the right amount of crunch or provide that finishing flavor that many dishes use. With Fall's arrival, I have seen (and felt) the ones in the yard that have fallen off the tree. With the holidays coming up quickly I have also noticed them in the front of grocery stores and farmers markets all over.

Pecan Pie Southern Pecan Pie

If you are looking for a local business in Johnston County to find pecans, check out Braxton Pecan Company in Princeton, NC. They have all your pecan needs. From in-shell and shelled to cracking and shelling services for the public to trees and harvesting equipment, they are the place to shop at. If you can't make it out to Princeton, take a look at a local farmers market such as the Clayton Farm and Community Market in Clayton, NC.

To celebrate pecan season arriving, here is the recipe for a Southern classic-- Pecan Pie! This a great dish for any get together or reunion. Oh...and don't expect to have leftovers.

There are more recipes to be enjoyed at www.johnstoncountync.org or check out our facebook and pinterest pages.

Hope you enjoy them!


Continue reading
1857 Hits

Sculpture Trail lands in Downtown Clayton

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

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

Balancing Spheres sculpture Balancing Spheres Sculpture in Downtown Clayton.

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

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

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

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

Continue reading
1704 Hits

JCVB Releases 2013 Annual Report

Annual Report CoverThe Johnston County Visitors Bureau released the 2013 Annual Report today which reviews the Visitor Spending Numbers reported by the NC Division of Tourism, Film & Sports Development, budget revenues/expenditures, and the highlights of the bureau's year.

The Division of Tourism reported that visitor spending reached $197.66 million in 2012, which was a 3.4 percent increase over 2011.  The economy continues to ebb and flow in the tourism industry due to weather related events like Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast, gas prices, dips in the economy, and the influx of new hotels not only in the county but in competitor markets like Wilson, Rocky Mount and Fayetteville.

We were pleased overall our visitor spending numbers showed an increase, however, new hotels continue to take a "piece of the pie" from several hotels built along I-95 in the 60s. What the future holds for these aged properties is unknown at this time.

The upside in Johnston County continues to be the investment in tourism development by hotel operators, which have brought new brand name properties to the county,  expansion of our wineries and two additional vineyards planning on producing wines/grape juices in 2014, as well as, two new breweries opening in the county.  Deep River Brewing opened in Clayton in May and Double Barley Brewery opened in September. To continue with this theme, the county now has a distillery producing "moonshine" near Benson. Broadslab Distillery has plans to build a tasting room and start giving guided tours.

Additional development includes the new meeting facility that opened in October, The Farm, which is right outside the Town of Selma.  The Visitors Bureau will take these new tourism-related businesses and create new marketing strategies such as Beer and BBQ Trails, and group tours to Broadslab.  With the new meeting facility, our marketing efforts will now include meeting planner trade shows and advertising.

2012 is behind us, and the future is certainly holding new promises, new opportunities and the Visitors Bureau is poised to be at the table to market, advertise and promote.  Look out 2014 -- we are coming on strong!

To read the entire 2012 Annual Report -- CLICK HERE!

Continue reading
1677 Hits

Sweet Potato Lovers' Season

Just recently on my drive to work I noticed all the Fall and Halloween decorations that have been put up (which I LOVE) and  think it's a beautiful way of saying "Welcome Fall to Johnston County!" There are other things, besides decorations, around Johnston County that show that the Fall season has arrived...Fall Festivals! Football! Humidity Relief! Smell of Burning Fires! And especially...Sweet Potatoes!

Baked Sweet Potato Enjoy a baked sweet potato from Johnston County.

I love sweet potatoes. Being one of my favorite vegetables, I get excited when this time of year finally arrives! Johnston County is known for the amount of sweet potatoes it produces and now that it is harvesting time, I decided to do some research on this tasty vegetable and here are some facts I discovered.

    • North Carolina is the #1 producer of sweet potatoes in the United States and Johnston County is in the top 3 of all the counties in the state.
    • It became North Carolina's official state vegetable in 1995.
    • They prefer sandy soil and temperate climate to grow in.
    • Sweet Potatoes can be white, yellow, red, purple, or orange.
    • One of the most versatile vegetables, can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, microwaved, fried, baked, candied, etc.
    • To take in the amount of Vitamin A that is in one sweet potato, you would have to eat 23 cups of broccoli.

Now on to the best thing about sweet potatoes...cooking them! To help you get started on sweet potato recipes, we will start with the basics. Here is a list of ways to cook them, from baking to fried to roasted. All of them are easy and a great way to start simple.

For more sweet potato recipes and local places to get your sweet potatoes head over to www.johnstoncountync.org/sweetpotatoes. We are also always adding new recipes to our pinterest page so go ahead and start following us. You won't regret it.

Continue reading
1834 Hits

JoCo Visitors Bureau Wins Three Marketing Awards

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau (JCVB) recently attended the Travel Leadership Conference held Oct. 3-5 in Southern Pines.  The statewide DMO trade organization, Destination Marketing Association of NC organizes the event, which includes an annual awards program for excellence in destination marketing.

2013 Destination Marketing Awards 2013 Destination Marketing Awards

JCVB was recognized with three awards this year for excellence in marketing.  The Official JoCo Visitors Guide won a GOLD Destination Marketing Award for - Destination Publications.  The visitors bureau prints 90,000 guides each year to promote the county's attractions, hotels, shopping, dining, and festivals.  Our office distributes the guide to more than 125 sites in the county, as well as, NC Welcome Centers and AAA Offices from Canada to Florida.

Winning a PLATINUM Award for Destination Marketing Initiative - Web, was the Five New JoCo Promotional Videos project.  In 2012, the JCVB wrote scripts, filmed footage around the county, and helped to produce five themed videos based on the following niche markets:  Arts & Entertainment, Shopping New & Old, History & Heritage, Agri-tourism, and Outdoor Recreation.  The narration of the videos centered around the "JoCo Traveler", who was Patrick Brown, a TLC Home Improvement television host that now lives in Wake County.  Our new YouTube Channel is where visitors will find the new videos.  Future plans include adding to the channel with videos on "JoCo - Southern Style Cooking".

Also winning a PLATINUM Award for Destination Marketing Initiative - Social, was the JoCo Strawberry Pie Recipe Goes Viral.  The Johnston County agri-tourism market is a growing segment that support our brand of being a rural destination with working farms, on-farm experiences, farmer's markets and a variety of locally produced food products.  This spring the Visitors Bureau chose to highlight pick-your-own fresh fruits and vegetables options by using great southern recipes and driving traffic to our websites, BLOG, Pinterest and Facebook pages.

We were surprised and in awe, when the Strawberry Pie Recipe we posted started going viral, by the way, it's an incredible thing to watch.  By the end of the summer, the recipe was shared over 74,000 times and seen by over 2.8 million people on Facebook.

We hope to duplicate this again some day!  Look for more incredible JoCo Recipes!


The Johnston County Visitors Bureau is a quasi-government agency funded by the 3% county-wide occupancy tax paid by visitors staying in local hotel/motels and inns.  Our agency is charged with the promotion of the entire county to attract and serve visitors, therefore, impacting the local economy through visitor spending, jobs, and tourism development.



Continue reading
1345 Hits

Farms Welcome Fall with Hayrides, Pumpkins, and Concerts

Fall is just around the corner for Johnston County farmers, and a variety of events and festivals are scheduled beginning in October for families to enjoy including pumpkin picking, hayrides, corn mazes and concerts. Travel out of the city and visit several farms to learn more about the county's agriculture heritage -- and to just have some fun!

Clayton Fear Farm - Wake Med Maze Boyette Family Farms Corn Maze

For the little ones, Clayton Fear Farm Daytime is child friendly and offers pumpkins in the patch still on the vine for picking (prices vary depending on the size).  Also suitable for children are the Seymour’s House of Dreams, Jumping Pillow, Corn Box, Spider Web, Corn Maze, Picnic Shelter, Tire / Tractor Playground, Cow Milking and a giant slide. Opening October 5, and then on Saturday and Sundays in October and Halloween Day, October 31st.

At night and for the older kids with stronger hearts is the Clayton Fear Farm, the ONLY haunted Halloween scream park in the Triangle. This fear farm features six scary haunted attractions including haunted houses that offer new horror features each year. The farm includes the following scary attractions: Fear Farm Academy, The Black Hole, Fear Forest Haunted Hayride, Slaughterhouse, The Farm House, and A Walk In The Dark! -- Try to find your way through the rooms alone and not be sidetracked by something or someone following too closely. Opening October 5, then Friday and Saturday nights in October, and most nights at the end of the month. Check their website for a full schedule.

Both the Daytime and Fear Farm are located on the Boyette Family Farm at 1620 Loop Road, Clayton.  For more information call 919-553-0016 or visit, www.boyettefamilyfarms.com.

Lauren Alaina, of American Idol fame, will perform at this year's Farm Fest. Lauren Alaina, of American Idol fame, will perform at this year's Farm Fest.

With a lineup like this, the 2nd Annual Farm Fest presented by Springhill Outfitters in Selma is where you want to be October 5th. Artists performing this year include Craig Morgan, Parmalee, Brian Davis, Tyler Farr, Josh Phillips, and Lauren Alaina. Along with great music, there will be food and drink vendors on hand. Farm Fest will take place from 11am to 6:30pm at "The Farm" at 225 Batten Rd., Selma. For more information and details about the concert call 919-351-0764 or visit www.springhilloutfitters.com.

Lazy O Farm in Smithfield has programs for school age children all year round, but the fall programs continue to be very popular for all ages.  For fun farm education try the MAZE and PUMPKIN PATCH, explore the barnyard, visit the animals, or hop on a hayride. Monday through Friday, there is a group minimum of 10 and appointments are required.

Super Saturdayz will be every Saturday in October 10am- 2pm. The farm is
open to the public for self-guided visits of barnyard animals and exhibits, hayrides and a maze. The Pumpkin Patch is also open on Saturdays, 10- 2pm with pumpkins of all sizes, visitors may pick your favorite and all are priced according to size.  New this year is Mining Madness. Dig through a bucket of dirt filled with treasures, gemstones and fossils that are millions of years old and discover what's living beneath your feet as you walk through the soil tunnel. Lazy O Farm is located at 3583 Packing Plant Road, Smithfield, and for more information call 919-934-1132.

Smith's Nursery is the family-fun farm for getting your pumpkin, hayrides and more! Smith's Nursery is the family-fun farm for getting your pumpkin, going on a hayride and more!

On October 19, journey to Smith’s Nursery Fall Festival to enjoy the day at the nursery with pumpkin picking, crafts, hayrides, a bounce house, relay races, corn hole, music, food and much more. The festival goes from 10am-3pm.  Smith’s is located at 443 Sanders Rd., Benson (I-40, Exit 319) and for more information call 919-934-1700 or visit their website, www.smithsnurseryinc.com.

Gregory Vineyards is hosting a Fall Harvest Festival on October 19 from 2pm- 9:30. Head out to the vineyard to enjoy a DJ, Broken Road Band, vendors, Grape Stomp, Lucille Ball look-a-like contest, and much more! While you are there, enjoy tasting and sipping on a variety of muscadine wine. Gregory Vineyards is located at 275 Bowling Spring Dr., Angier. Call 919-894-7700 or visit www.gregoryvineyards.com for more details about the festival.

This year’s Wilson’s Mills Pumpkin Festival is scheduled for Saturday, October 12 where visitors can join in the family fun with old fashion games, corn hole, antique farm equipment show, music, inflatables, dunking booth and great food! And of course, get your pumpkins! Time of the event is 9am- 5pm and all activities will take place at the Wilson’s Mills Town Hall area, call 919-938-3885 for more details.

For these fall events and a variety of heritage exhibits, Civil War programs, performing arts and October festivals like the Selma Railroad Days and the Ava Gardner Festival, check out the Calendar of Events on the Johnston County Visitors Bureau website, www.johnstoncountync.org or call for brochures, 919-989-8687.

Continue reading
1962 Hits

"Mountains to Coast" Ride Rests in Johnston County

Cycle NC LogoThe 15th Annual "Mountains to Coast" ride will be held on Sept 28th - Oct 5th, 2013.  This year's route will go from Spruce Pine to Atlantic Beach, with overnight stops in Morganton, Troutman, Asheboro, Holly Springs, Goldsboro and New Bern along the way.

But between Holly Springs and Goldsboro, this year's route will travel through Johnston County on Thursday, October 3rd.  The Johnston County Visitors Bureau has worked with Cycle NC to create a fun stop at the Lazy O Farm in Smithfield and lunch break at Howell Woods, east of Four Oaks.

Lazy O Farm will be the first rest stop, offering cyclists a 12 minute tour of the working farm, honey samples and entertainment.  At Howell Woods, riders will be offered lunch, local food samples and entertainment.  Cyclists enjoy each and every stop and are on the lookout for future trips for cycling or just to visit again.

We were an overnight host for this event about five years ago and we hope to do the same again in the near future...it's quite a site to welcome around 1,000 bike riders to the community and a whole lot of fun too!

All registration fees will increase up to $50 after August 21. Online registration will close Friday, September 20.

You can click Register Now to sign up today!

Continue reading
1701 Hits

What will the next generation of bluegrass music sound like?

Johnston County has a rich musical heritage with bluegrass music, especially well-known is Al Batten & The Bluegrass Reunion who have been playing together for over 40 years.

Al Batten Al Batten and the Bluegrass Reunion, local Johnston County bluegrass band.

Al Batten has proven true the concept that time, practice, and dedication are what it takes to master the 5-string banjo. The "3-T's" are his staples: Taste, Timing, and Tone. Following his initiation to the instrument in his teens, Earl Scruggs, Don Reno, Bill Emerson, Walter Hensley, and Billy Edwards heavily influenced him. And by combining these influences, Al developed a unique style of his own. In addition, his lead singing is second to none. For just as soon as he sings the first note, you can immediately tell it comes straight from the heart!

By carrying on his family tradition in agriculture (farmer, leader in the local FFA, former Boy Scout leader, and retired agriculture teacher), Al has learned to keep things down to earth, not only in his music, but in life as a whole. His quick wit and down-home demeanor only add to his outgoing personality and his good-hearted nature. These traits have become the standard for the Bluegrass Reunion, not only in the music business, but in his home, church, and community, as well

But how is the music evolving and staying relevant for today's younger generation?

GENERATION BLUEGRASS is a video project introducing some of the most talented up and coming young bluegrass musicians in the country. It was produced, directed, and edited by 17 year old bluegrass guitarist Corey Smith, with the help of Zeb Snyder (17) of the Snyder Family Band.  Its purpose is to promote bluegrass music to the younger generation and honor the older generation that gave us such a rich musical heritage.  If you want an insight into the youth in bluegrass scene, and the talent level of young bluegrass musicians, this is a must see video.  If nothing else, this film will communicate the blessing of great heritage music and will make a strong statement that the uniquely American form of music known as Bluegrass will continue on.

Generation Bluegrass members include, Zeb and Samantha Snyder (Snyder Family Band); The Church Sisters; The Moore Brothers; Shane and Alex Edwards; and The Smith Family. You will not only be entertained and amazed by the talent of these young musicians, but you will be encouraged by the character of these performers. The future of bluegrass music is indeed in good hands.

The Paul A. Johnston Auditorium is hosting Generation Bluegrass on September 21st on the campus of Johnston Community College.  Tickets are $12.50 and $10.00.

CLICK HERE for video.

Continue reading
1811 Hits

Beer Wine & Shine Trail

beer wine and shine trail logo

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


Meeting Planners

meeting venue with presentation screen

Johnston County offers conveniently located and affordable conference facilities for meetings, reunions, and unique destination weddings sites.  Why not select a historic home or horse farm for your next event?


Group Tour Operators

girl with camera in travel group

Groups have discovered exits along I-40 and I-95 for outlet shopping, music theatre, museums and heritage sites.  Call today for custom itinerary planning.


Hotel Packages

hotel bed and pillow with johnston county logo

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


hospitality heroes logo



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