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

Grilled, Steamed, or Creamed Fresh Corn -- Yum!

It may be yellow or it may be white, but we think fresh corn on the cob is tasty in any color. In Johnston County, one of the fastest growing counties in North Carolina, road-side fields with tall corn stalks are still easy to find.

Corn Muffins with fresh corn Corn Muffins with fresh corn

Although there are many pick-your-own farms for fruits like strawberries and blueberries, we suggest leaving the harvesting of corn to our local farmers.  Getting in the rows and rows of corn is "hot" business and knowing what's ready to pick is more difficult than finding a bright red berry.  Stop by the Clayton Community Farm Market or Lee's Produce in Clayton or 701 Farm Market in Smithfield to buy corn by the dozen or the bushel.  Corn can be easily frozen off or on the cob and enjoyed all year long in your favorite recipes.  To enjoy on-farm tours, fresh produce and activities for your family, visit our website, www.johnstoncountync.org/agritourism

There are a host of recipes for fresh corn, and here's one of our favorites to share with our readers.


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Could Anything be Finer than Peach Cobbler?

July in Johnston County is harvest season for a bounty of vegetables which we love, but can anything be sweeter than sun-kissed peaches?  And in the tradition of keeping it simple, which is really the definition of Southern cooking, Peach Cobbler is a must-have recipe in any great cook's arsenal.  This recipe works best with peaches, blueberries, and blackberries as it's light, buttery and crispy.

Peach Cobbler

8 Medium Sized Ripe Peaches
Peeled and sliced, 1/2 cup sugar stirred into peaches to create juices, let set in the refrig. as you prepare the rest of the recipe.

1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
3/4 cup self-rising flour (do not use AP flour or you will have a flop)
Mix all three ingredients well in a small bowl.

Melt 1/2 cup (one stick of butter) in a 13 x 9 glass cooking dish.  Pour sugar/flour/milk mixture on top of the butter, then place the peaches on top of this mixture -- DO NOT STIR.

Baked in 350 degree oven for appox. 45 minutes until top is crispy and brown. (everyone will want the crispy edges -- they do around our house!)  Serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

Serves 8 (maybe!)

The Thompson Orchard in Four Oaks, just off I-95 Exit 90, has been growing peaches for over 35 years.  Stop by and get a bushel for eating and freezing so you can enjoy peaches all year round.  Peaches freeze very well by just peeling (8 medium), mix with small amount of sugar and place in a large freezer bag (lay them flat so they stack easily), then you can pull out a bag with the correct amount of peaches for your cobbler.  Your family will thank you!

For more great ideas on Agricultural Venues and visiting Johnston County, check out our website, www.johnstoncountync.org/agritourism.

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Back to School and Tax Free!

Back to School and Tax Free!

Back to School & Fax Free Weekend

What event in August can combine two favorite things for women -- shopping and saving money? It's the Back to School Events at Carolina Premium Outlets in Smithfield and the NC Tax Free weekend. Carolina Premium Outlet's Back-to-School & Fall Preview Sale is scheduled for Thursday - Monday, Aug 1 - 5 where shoppers will enjoy extra savings on top of everyday savings of 25% to 65% off retail at national brand stores like Tommy Hilfiger, The Gap, Banana Republic and many more.

North Carolina Sales Tax Holiday will also take place during the first weekend of August, Friday - Sunday, Aug 2 - 4.  Plan a trip to Smithfield during the North Carolina Sales Tax Holiday and enjoy tax free shopping on most clothing, footwear and backpacks under $100*

CPO Extended Shopping Hours:

Fri, Aug 2: 9am-10pm
Sat, Aug 3: 9am-10pm
Sun, Aug 4: 10am-7pm

*The tax free weekend for general merchandise purchased in North Carolina applies to the following items:

Clothing, footwear, and school supplies under $100
Sports and recreation equipment under $50
Computers under $3,500
Computer equipment under $250

"Customers in this economy are looking for value and quality at a great price and shoppers know Carolina Premium Outlets offers both,” said Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director, Johnston County Visitors Bureau. "The back-to-school period, like Black Friday, is super important to our destination for attracting visitors,” she added. “Back-to-school is one the biggest times of the year for shopping at Carolina Premium Outlets."

For deals on hotels located adjacent to the outlet center, visit the bureau website, www.visitsmithfield.org


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Summer Time Inspires Backyard Farmers

Home-grown Tomato Sandwich!

Johnston County is one of the fastest growing counties in North Carolina, but our roots are still in the soil and our agricultural heritage is strong.  Our farmer's are very visible at the NC Farmer's Market as the spring and summer crops are being harvested which starts with sweet strawberries in April.  By the time July rolls around, the bounty is rich and plentiful with corn, peaches, okra, blueberries and more.  But there is one crop that brings out the amateur farmer in us all -- the tomato.

Tomatoes will grow very well in planters and raised beds and many families grow this red, juicy, tasty, fruit in the backyard.  As the tomatoes start getting ripe on the vine, the anticipation for that first tomato sandwich begins. It's a simple recipe, but one that  in a way defines summertime in the South.

Tomato Sandwich Recipe

  •   1 medium size ripe tomato (homegrown, of course)
  •   2 slices bread like Pepperidge Farm  Country White
  •   1 Tablespoon Duke’s Mayonnaise (do not substitute)
  •   Salt and pepper

Wash and cut the tomato into thick slices. Spread the mayonnaise onto both slices of the bread. Make sure to spread the mayonnaise to the edge of each slice of bread. Place the tomato slices on one piece of bread. Add salt and pepper. Cover with the second slice of bread, mayonnaise side down, of course. Cut the sandwich into two pieces and enjoy the best tomato sandwich ever.

If tomatoes are not growing in your back yard, and you need to find a reliable source there are several options in the county.  On the weekend, local farmer's markets like the Clayton Community Farm Market and 701 Farmer's Market are great places to find a bounty of crop vegetables .  Other options are Lee's Produce in Clayton and Smith's Farm in the McGee's Crossroads area.  Wherever you find your tomatoes, we hope you try some of the recipes we will be posting up this month and that you will shop with our local farmers.

To find our more about visiting local farms in the county, visit our website, www.johnstoncountync.org/agritourism.

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Time to "Wine Down" in Johnston County

There is a new event in Johnston County targeted to individuals looking to “wine down” and relax after a long week at work. Three of the wineries along the Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail are hosting events the first Friday of the month, appropriately named, “Wine Down Fridays”.

Relax, Unwind, Enjoy Friday Afternoon at a vineyard in Johnston County!

There is a new event in Johnston County targeted to individuals looking to “wine down” and relax after a long week at work.  Three of the wineries along the Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail are hosting events the first Friday of the month, appropriately named, “Wine Down Fridays”.

Hinnant’s Vineyard and Winery, Gregory Vineyards and Adams Vineyard all are open for extended hours on July 5th until 9pm. Each winery will offer 50% off their special wine slushy’s on event dates.  Future dates for the Wine Down Fridays are August 2, September 6 and October 4th.

For more information on the offerings at each winery, please contact them directly for details.  Hinnant’s is located at 826 Pine-Level-Micro Rd., Pine Level, 919-965-3350; Gregory Vineyards is located at 275 Bowling Springs Dr., Angier, 919-894-7700 and Adams Vineyard is located at 3390 John Adams Rd., Willow Springs, 919-567-1010.

Check the official Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail website for more information on the trail and like the trail on Facebook.

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JCVB Board Changes Special Event Grants Guidelines

The Johnston County Tourism Authority Board of Directors has approved new guidelines for the Special Event Grants Program for 2013-14.  In an effort to streamline the application for the event planners and reduce administrative work for the JCVB staff, new guidelines will go into effect July 1, 2013.

“For over 20 years, the Visitors Bureau has supported events and festivals with marketing dollars to attract visitors to the county and we continue to believe strongly in helping as many organizations as possible to build their attendance through marketing campaigns,” stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director. “We are proposing planners embrace partnering with visitors industry businesses, we have reduced the amount of paperwork, and focused less on number of attendees but more on generating overnight stays.”

The Special Projects Committee, chaired by Trish Stewart had several meetings to discuss new procedures and the committee wrote and revised the application.  The highlights of the changes are as follows:

First, applications will be accepted throughout the fiscal year and approved by the board at monthly meetings.  Applications must be received 90 days prior to the event and must include the date, a 25-50 word description, photo, web link, press materials such as releases,  and the public phone number to be used by the Visitors Bureau on the county-wide event calendar.

Second, the number of applications per organization has gone from two to one; however, the amount available to the organization has increased from $250 for community events to $500.  In the past, organizations could apply for two grants and now they can receive the same amount with one application.  All towns in the county can apply for one grant for any event that targets visitors from outside Johnston County.

Third, major Annual Festivals are approved to receive $1,000 and need only provide the marketing materials to the Visitors Bureau 90 days out and hopefully at least six months prior to their events.  The major annual festivals have been identified as Benson Mule Days, Cleveland Strawberry Festival, Bentonville Battlefield Anniversary Event, Selma Railroad Days, Smithfield Ham & Yam Festival and the Clayton Harvest Festival.  The organizers of these events will also be eligible for one additional $500 grant should they host other events during the year which target visitors from outside the county.

Although not a requirement of receiving funds, the JCVB is encouraging event planners to involve visitor related businesses in their event plans for hotel packages, tickets plus deals for area restaurants or retail coupons in welcome bags, etc., to enhance the visitor experience and cross promote with area businesses.   The JCVB staff plans on hosting a workshop with event planners and inviting area businesses to meet and discuss ways to partner together.

Applications for 2013-14 Special Event Grants have been mailed out to event planners in the county and forms may be found on the bureau’s website, at http://www.johnstoncountync.org/progams/jcvb-grants-program. Applications are for non-profit organizations only and may be returned to Angel Phillips, Office Manager at Johnston County Visitors Bureau, 235-A East Market St., Smithfield, NC  27577.

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93rd Annual State Singing Convention, June 21-23

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

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

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

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

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

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VisitSmithfield.org Gets Updated Look

A current project for the Johnston County Visitors Bureau staff in 2013 is updating and revising the six town websites created to promote visitation to the county.  The site to get the latest updates is Smithfield, at www.visitsmithfield.org. With a new look and up to date information, the new Smithfield site is easier to manage and more convenient for visitors.

The Town of Smithfield is home to many hotels, restaurants, shops, and annual festivals. The new visitsmithfield.org takes all of these attractions and organizes them with descriptions, contact information, and photographs. There is also information about the town itself, the history and early growth of the town, and relocation information.

The redesigned site also has a couple new features. There is now an entire section on filming in Smithfield. This gives film makers information on locations, connects them to the NC Film

Office resources, and provides helpful information on statewide film incentives. There is also a link to the Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail website, and the site promotes the

Girlfriends Getaway Shopping Package which is very popular with leisure travelers to the area.

“Links to the VisitSmithfield.org site are very important to Google searches and we encourage local business owners listed on the site, to provide a link from their websites to the town’s,” stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director.

Visitsmithfield.org is a resource not only for visitors, but local residents wanting to stay connected to what’s happening in Smithfield or “deals around town” that might be available. These new changes make it easier for everyone to use. If there are any updates that were missed, please contact the Johnston County Visitors bureau at www. johnstoncountync.org or call 919-989-8687.

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3 Little Pigs Triathlon to be Held on June 15

For the fourth year, the Chick-fil-A 3 Little Pigs Triathlon will be held in Smithfield, North Carolina. On Saturday, June 15, 2013, at 7:30am athletes will participate in a 250-yard pool swim, 14-mile bike, and 3.1 mile run.

The route for the three events will take participants around the Smithfield area, sticking mainly around the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center (SRAC) and surrounding areas. The event will begin with swimming at the SRAC at 600 Booker Dairy Road then carry on to the bike course from the SRAC into rural Johnston County on a scenic but mostly flat course. The triathlon will end with the run event which is an out-and-back course around Smithfield's Community Park, and down and back on the new Buffalo Creek Greenway.

"We are excited about the response we've received about the 3 Little Pigs Triathlon," said Martin Tetreault, a committee member for the event. "Last year, we had almost 500 participants and raised over $17,000. We expect similar numbers this year. With the help of the SRACand The Rotary Club of Central Johnston County, the event will provide an opportunity for fun and fundraising."

Family activities will also be available including the SRAC splash pool, a jump-o-line, a misting tent, face painting and the playground at the finish line.

Chick-fil-A of Smithfield is the title sponsor for the event. Proceeds will benefit the Friends of the Park and The Rotary Club of Central Johnston County.

For online registration and more information call 919-934-1408.

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Destination Marketing Organizations Partner to Launch Agritourism Website Portal

The Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) of Chatham, Durham, Johnston, Orange, and Wake counties have  teamed up to launch www.TriangleGrown.com, a website showcasing the area’s agriculturally based features that are visitor friendly – part of the growing national trend known as agritourism.

The site helps make visiting farms and food producers easier. Many of the businesses featured have a strong commitment to using locally produced foods, which is enticing to the region’s growing ‘foodie’ population who seeks to participate and learn more about how food is grown and produced.

"Around ten years ago, with the help from NCSU Cooperative Extension and Dr. Carol Kline, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau began meeting with our local farmers on sustainable goals and how agritourism could be profitable for our farm families," stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director, Johnston County Visitors Bureau.  "Today, family farms like Lazy O Farms, Smith's Strawberry Farm, and Boyette Family Farms run successful agri-entertainment and educational programs for all ages."

Johnston County has a rich history in agriculture and continues to produce quality food products like Atkinson's Mill, House Autry Mill, Johnston County Hams, Steven's Sausage, Carolina Packer Hot Dogs and a variety of fresh produce like strawberries, peaches, blueberry, honey, pecans, and unique items like giant garlic.  These food products and more may be found at many restaurants in North Carolina and  beyond.

Promotion and marketing are among the top challenges farms face when starting or extending their agritourism programs, according to a report from NC State University’s Tourism Extension program. By collaborating to launch this site, the DMOs’ goal is to extend the marketing reach of individual agritourism attractions to the entire region, which encourages daytrip visits. Additional research shows that many visitors to agritourism features also participate in other activities during their visit, indicating the possibility for extending these day trips into longer stays.

The new site features top events and attractions for the five-county region, as well as suggested itineraries for a day trip to each of the five counties. It links to the primary visitor websites for each DMO for information on hundreds of additional events and activities, including:

    • restaurants, bakeries and breweries that embody the farm-to-fork principle,
    • markets that specialize in locally-produced goods,
    • nurseries and public gardens that allow visitors to get back to nature,
    • food tours and trails that highlight the farm-to-fork (or grape-to-glass, or plow-to-pint) journey,
    • events that celebrate and showcase producers, and
    • farms producing things like fruits and vegetables, as well as proteins, dairy and sundries that offer a more enriched experience than just shopping at a local farmers’ market.

"With the growing Triangle area and the need for our local farmers to maintain and prosper on their family farms, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau invested resources to educate, market and support our farmer's efforts to attract visitors, create shoulder season activities and package our assets into trails like the new Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail," noted Bailey-Taylor, "and we only see things growing here with new breweries opening and two thriving Farmer's Markets in Smithfield and Clayton."

The juxtaposition of urban and rural features and attractions in the Research Triangle Area of North Carolina offers a wide range of agritourism experiences. Those can now be easily accessed and explored online with current and accurate information at www.TriangleGrown.com. The tag #TriangleGrown will be used in ongoing promotions for this site and related activities in social media.

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TLC Host Patrick Brown is the "JoCo Traveler" for new Promotional Videos

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau has completed a year-long project producing five uniquely themed promotional videos for tourism.  The five videos may be found on the bureau's new YouTube Channel, http://www.youtube.com/user/VisitJohnstonCounty.

"I think it's safe to say we have become a time starved society overrun with media messages. Our research indicated that video length should be three to four minutes tops to be effective", stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director.  "So approximately 12 months ago we contracted with Digital P Media of Cary, who has produced the videos for The Clayton Center for several years to script, shoot and produce five videos."

The niche markets first targeted for Johnston County included History & Heritage, Arts & Entertainment, Agri-tourism and Food Products, Shopping, and Outdoor Recreation.  The creative platform included a "Johnston County Traveler" that narrates the videos as he travels around the county discovering all there is to see and do.

Fans of home improvements shows may recognize the "JoCo Traveler" as television host, Patrick Brown, who now lives in Wake County.  Brown is the host of Home Made Simple on TLC, A Discovery Channel and owns a construction company, ISC, Inc. in Wake County.  He graduated from East Carolina University with a bachelor of arts in sociology, where he also studied percussion and was a trained drummer.

"Working with Patrick was so enjoyable, as he truly was discovering Johnston County's rural character (which he loved the most) with each production shoot," noted Bailey-Taylor.

The Visitors Bureau has plans for future videos in other niche markets like "Festivals and Food" and "Destination Weddings".  For now, the Digital P Media film crews are back in Smithfield and Selma working with the Towns, Chamber and Downtown Development groups to complete three videos on recruiting business and industry here.

For more information on the Johnston County Visitors Bureau program of work to attract and serve visitors to the county, visit the website, www.johnstoncountync.org or call 919-989-8687.

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Ava Gardner Museum Screens Romantic Drama “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman”

The Ava Gardner Museum will be screening the film "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" at the Howell Theatre on May 18 &19 in Historic Downtown Smithfield.  Visitors to the event will also receive FREE admission to the Ava Gardner Museum during special hours over the weekend.  Tickets are $10.00 per person and times for the movie are:  Saturday, May 18 - 7:30pm and Sunday, May 19 - 2:30pm. Tickets are available at the Theatre and the museum.

"Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" (1951) is a British drama film made by Romulus Films and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the United States. The film was directed and produced by Albert Lewin from his own screenplay, based on the legend of The Flying Dutchman.

The film starred Ava Gardner and James Mason, featuring Nigel Patrick, Sheila Sim, Harold Warrender, Mario Cabré and Marius Goring. Most of the movie was shot on location in Tossa de Mar, Catalonia, Spain, where a statue of Gardner has been erected on the hill overlooking the town's main beach.

MGM delayed its release until Gardner's star-making role in 1951's "Show Boat". The tactic worked, and this film solidified her status as a rising star. This film first introduced Gardner to Spain, bullfights, flamenco dancing and the warm Spanish people, who she came to love so much that she moved there in 1955 as her marriage to Frank Sinatra was ending.

Movie Plot:   Many cineastes consider "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" as the masterpiece of filmmaker Albert Lewin (The Picture of Dorian Gray), while others write the film off as a pretentious romantic drama. Ava Gardner stars as Pandora Reynolds, a predatory creature who destroys the lives of all men who've been unfortunate enough to fall in love with her. Enter Hendrick van der Zee (James Mason), a mystical figure who proves to be Pandora's match. It turns out that van der Zee is the legendary 17th Century Flying Dutchman, whose spirit is doomed to wander the earth until he is able to find a woman willing to love him with all her heart -- and sacrificing everything.

Tickets are available at the Howell Theatre, 141 S. Third St., Smithfield, or by visiting the museum at 325 E. Market Street, Smithfield, NC 27577.  For more information on the museum, visit the website, www.avagardner.org

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2013 Ham & Yam Festival Gets Back to Country Roots

Large crowds are expected to come out for two country bands playing at this year’s Smithfield Ham & Yam Festival. “The Farm” will be in concert Friday, May 3 and Casey James of American Idol Fame will play on Saturday, May 4 at the Stevens Sausage Pavilion at the Neuse River Amphitheatre during the 2013 Ham & Yam Festival.

In its 29th year, the Ham & Yam Festival continues the new schedule of events with a free concert on Friday night and a full day of activities on Saturday with Casey James closing out the festival beginning at 8:30pm. Craft, commercial, and informational vendors will take to the streets on Saturday, May 4, along with entertainment on two stages, and fun activities for the entire family.  Circle C Farm will again bring the Hogway Speedway back to the annual festival with its racing potbelly pigs, ducks and other barnyard animals.

Casey James, contestant on the ninth season of American Idol, will perform Saturday, May 4.

“The Farm” is an American country music trio consisting of Nick Hoffman, Damien Horne and Krista Marie. The trio has released the single "Home Sweet Home", which has charted on Hot Country Songs. Horne is a former member of John Rich's songwriting group MuzikMafia, while Marie is a former solo artist for Broken Bow Records and Hoffman plays fiddle in Kenny Chesney's road band.

Casey James, singer /songwriter and guitarist from Fort Worth, Texas, placed third on the ninth season of American Idol. During the finale of American Idol, he performed a duet of "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" with Bret Michaels. USA Today music critic Brian Mansfield suggested that James was "the best guitar player the show [American Idol] has seen."   James' self-titled debut CD was released in March 2012 with three top singles, "Let's Don't Call It a Night", "Crying on a Suitcase", and "The Good Life".

“The Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation and the Ham & Yam Festival is always working to make sure the festival stays fresh and innovative for attendees,” states Chris Johnson, Executive Director of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation.

“With the generous corporate sponsorship provided by Stevens Sausage, we are absolutely elated to have signed Casey James to perform at the 2013 festival,” continues Johnson. "With two free concerts, the festival promises to be one of the largest attended events in Johnston County history, so come early.”

The Ham & Yam Festival is organized by the non-profit, Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation. For more information about the 2012 Ham & Yam Festival, call the Downtown Development office at (919) 934-0887 or visit www.hamandyam.com on the web.

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New Event Targets Saturday Yard Sale Shoppers

The towns of Kenly, Selma, Smithfield and Benson located along US 301 in Johnston County announces the first annual "Endless Yard Sale" to take place the weekend of June 14-15, 2013.

Patterned after the long established 127 Longest Sale that runs from Michigan to Alabama, and inspired by the HGTV television show, the communities along US 301 will join together with vendors offering deals, antiques, collectibles and more along a 30 mile stretch of highway between Kenly and Benson, NC.

The US 301 Endless Yard Sale officially starts on the second Friday of June on the 14th and runs through Saturday. Many sellers will be located along the stretch in well established visitor sites like the Tobacco Farm Life Museum in Kenly, TWN Antiques in Selma and the Smithfield Community Farmers Market....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,” stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, “his 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 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 US 301 Endless Yard Sale.

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

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Partnership with ECU Reveals Insights into Johnston County Visitors

b2ap3_thumbnail_jcvb-infographic_article.jpgThe Johnston County Visitors Bureau was part of a pilot program in partnership with East Carolina University Center for Sustainable Tourism to conduct visitor research in rural counties.  Over a year long process, emails for an online survey were collected from accommodations, attractions, retail stores, and special events to gain a cross-section of visitors during the four seasons of travel.

“As part of the pilot program, we were excited to pave the way for tourism organizations across North Carolina to learn best practices for conducting research in rural communities,” stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director.  “Although the sample size was around 215 respondents, we feel the data complements what we already know from previous studies and we learned several new trends on sustainable practices of our visitors.  We wish to share this information so that local businesses can it use in their everyday operations and for marketing decisions.”

The Cumulative Technical Report was finalized in February 2013 and copies were provided to all participates of the study.  The report validated many of the bureau’s previous studies or data collected internally such as North Carolina is the top feeder state for travel to Johnston County (65.4% of study responses) and Virginia is the top overnight state for travelers to the area (6.41% of study responses).

Knowing who is traveling to the county and why are important aspects of how to market to our visitors and the general outcome from the research indicated:  35% of visitors to Smithfield/Johnston County were on vacation, a getaway or for leisure purposes, 15% were here visiting friends/family, 15% were attending a business trip, and 11% were attending a festival or special event, with additional 24% here on personal business or indicated other reasons.

Tourism in Johnston County generated $191 million in visitor spending in 2011 and average expenditures are important for tracking the economic impact of tourism. Visitors spend on average $233.77 on shopping, food ($138.27), lodging ($113.43), and transportation ($89.18) and activities/entertainment ($84.32).

For those interested in reading the full report, a copy will be available on the Johnston County Visitors Bureau website, www.johnstoncountync.org or if there are additional questions contact Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director at 919-989-8687.

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JCVB Board Approves $25,000 in Capital Grants

Benson Singing GroveSince 1987 when the Johnston County Tourism Authority was created by the Johnston County Commissioners, investing in the development of the tourism infrastructure of the county has been part of our vision statement.

At the November board meeting, Trish Stewart, Chairman of the Special Projects Committee presented three capital projects to the board for funding. Each project received funds based on the grant application guidelines, eligibility, and the projected timeline for completion of the project.

    • $14,500 was awarded to the Benson Parks & Recreation Department for improvements to the Benson Singing Grove facilities.  For over 60 years, "The Grove" has been the host location for the State Singing Convention, numerous Benson Mule Days activities, private parties and family reunions.  Improvements to the structure, the restrooms and a new sound system will ensure the facility will continue to play host to events and provide upgraded amenities to visitors to Benson.
    • $5,250 was awarded to The Clayton Center to install a state-of-the-art lighting system on the stage to allow the center to attract touring plays, which have needed such a lighting system.  The Clayton Center is celebrating their 10 year anniversary and they have brought scores of visitors to Clayton through high-quality performances and cultural events.  Having the ability to book theater acts will expand their range of programming.
    • $5,250 was awarded to the Historic Hastings House to continue restoration plans for the oldest home in Smithfield and to create a historic display of Civil War artifacts to attract visitors to the house.  Restoration work needed to the house includes painting the exterior, porch repairs, landscaping and protecting the 158-year-old glass windowpanes.  Exhibits are planned to be in place by March, 2015 when Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site hosts their 150th Re-enactment Event.

Over the many years of supporting tourism projects around the county, over $1 million dollars of occupancy tax has been utilized to build auditoriums, museums, lighting along I-95 interchanges, gardens and beautification projects.

From the first board of directors until the present board, the commitment to support festivals and events with marketing funds and capital grant money for bricks and mortar projects remains strong.  For more information on the Johnston County Tourism Authority list of capital grant recipients 1987-2013 - click here.

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"Santa's Baby" Wine- More Nice than Naughty

Ava Gardner MuseumThe holiday season is approaching quickly, which means the stress and hassle of finding the perfect gift for family members and friends. The Ava Gardner Museum, located in Downtown Smithfield, is the ideal place to find unique and affordable gifts.

“Ava Gardner was born on Christmas Eve, 1922 in eastern Johnston County just seven miles east of Smithfield.  Ava showered gifts on her nieces and nephews from around the world and she loved the holidays”, stated Todd Johnson, Museum Director. “We always stock up during the holidays for shoppers looking for that unique item to give.”

Holiday gifts at the Ava Gardner Museum feature the book Living with Miss G, the 2013 Ava Gardner calendar, and "Santa's Baby" wine from Hinnant Family Vineyards.

The gift shop at the Ava Gardner Museum has many “stocking stuffer” gift options to choose from including T-shirts, Christmas ornaments, and movies featuring Gardner. There are three new items featured this year: Living with Miss G, the book written about Gardner by her personal assistant, the 2013 Ava Gardner Calendar, and a special Hinnant Vineyards holiday wine with Gardner featured on the label.

Gardner's personal assistant, Mearene "Rene" Jordan, writes about first-hand adventures she had with Gardner. It was a major draw during the Ava Gardner Festival this year and is a must-read for classic movie enthusiasts.  Price for the book is $20.00.

The 2013 Ava Gardner Calendar has 13 rare photos of Ava Gardner, including many with Gregory Peck from films they starred in together and from their private lives, with trivia and facts about Gardner's life and career scattered amongst the days of the year. The calendar is offered for $10.00.

Every year Hinnant Family Vineyards creates a special holiday wine and this year’s wine, "Santa's Baby," is a Red Table Wine named in honor of Ava's birthday. The bottle showcases a photo of Ava Gardner on the front label and a recipe for Hinnant Holiday Cider on the back label.  Cost for the specialty wine is $10.00.

All three items may be bought at the Ava Gardner Museum and the wine, of course, at Hinnant Family Vineyards. If you can't make a trip to their gift shops, then shop online at www.avagardner.org or www.hinnantvineyards.com For more information about the museum or holiday shopping items call 919-934-5830.

The Ava Gardner Museum is located in Historic Downtown Smithfield at 325 E. Market St., and the museum is open Monday-Saturday, 9-5pm and Sunday 2-5pm.  Admission is $7.00 for adults and $6.00 for seniors, military and students, $5.00 for children.

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Downtown Smithfield to Host Wine Tasting Event to Support Harbor

On Friday, November 16th, the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation will host a wine tasting to raise money for Harbor and the programs Harbor supports.

The Wine Walk fundraiser will take place from 5:30-7:30 p.m. as a continued part of the Downtown Smithfield’s monthly Third on Third series. Walkers will visit participating businesses in the downtown district to sample different regional, national and international wines at each location. Walkers will begin at Harbor’s Pizazz, located at 119 North Third Street in Downtown Smithfield, where tickets will be available for $20 per person. Walkers will then be given a wristband to wear, which will allow them to taste over a dozen varieties of wines at other downtown businesses, and the first hundred participants will be given commemorative wine glasses.

Businesses participating in the Wine Walk include Pizazz, the Johnston County Heritage Center, 231 Market Classic Printing, The Cakery, the Ava Gardner Museum, Plus Plus Consignment, Jewel’s Formals, Evans Jewelers, Artistry In Motion, The Yoga Connection, Bistro On Third, Memory Lane Frame Shop, and Aspect Financial.

There will also be live entertainment throughout the evening at Melody’s, as well as free carriage rides within the downtown district.

Harbor is Johnston County's only nonprofit agency providing service and assistance to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and women in transition. Harbor provides safe, compassionate, and advocacy services, resources, and programs. Harbor has a team of highly credentialed and experienced staff and volunteers who work diligently to assist women and children in need.

To learn more about Downtown Smithfield and its businesses, please call Chris Johnson with the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation at 919-934-0887 or visit them on the web at www.downtownsmithfield.com.

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Black Friday Shopping Begins on "Turkey-Day"

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 22nd 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 many stores to open doors at 9pm.

“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 23: Midnight-10pm,  Sat, Nov 24: 8am-10pm and Sun, Nov 25: 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.

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American Music Jubilee Christmas Show

“An Evening of Southern Hospitality, Great American Music and Side Splitting Comedy” will delight audiences of every age throughout the Christmas season.

A touch of Branson....A touch of Myrtle Beach....this ten member cast combines comedy skits with traditional and modern Christmas music.  Add a couple of surprise guests like Santa and his friends and this show is guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit.

The 2012 Christmas Season shows will be held starting November 2nd and run through December 21st. To complete the season, groups will enjoy Uptown Selma Antiques with over 15 antique and specialty stores and outlet shopping at over 95 brand name retail stores in the Smithfield-Selma area at Carolina Premium Outlets and JR Outlet Center.  A variety of national brand restaurants and quaint hometown dining is available before the Christmas show.

The Comedy show starts at 7:40pm and Music Show at 8:00pm, with matinees starting at 1:40pm, groups should call for dates and times.  Admission charges, Adult $22.50 and Children $17.50, with group discounts available with 20 tickets or more.

Selma is located in the Heartland of North Carolina, along the I-95 Corridor at exits 97 & 98.  For more information, toll free, 1-877-843-7839 or (919) 202-9927 or visit their website, www.amjubilee.com to purchase tickets.

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Beer Wine & Shine Trail

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


Meeting Planners

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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

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


Hotel Packages

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


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