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

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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Local Vineyard gets into Halloween Spirit

With Halloween just around the corner, the buzz about what costume to wear and which party to go to gets louder and louder. To get included in the Halloween talk, many local businesses are hosting Halloween events- including Hinnant Family Vineyards in Pine Level.

On Friday, October 26th, Hinnant Family Vineyards is holding their 2nd Annual Hinnant Haints Ball. Beginning at 7pm, there will be food and wine, entertainment provided by 8 Track, and a costume contest with prizes for the best single, pair, and group costumes. The Haints Ball is for adults 21 and older and a costume is required, masquerade attire suggested. Be prepared to join the spirits that haunt the vineyard in a night full of fun and dancing.

The very next night, Hinnant Family Vineyards is having A Night in Sleepy Hollow, sponsored by Bob Evans Family Restaurant. This family-fun event is taking place Saturday, October 27th starting at 6:30pm. It will be an evening full of hayrides, story telling, and a variety of games and contests including a Pumpkin Carving Contest and Pumpkin Pie Eating Contest. Admission to A Night in Sleepy Hollow is $5 per person, going to the Canter Stage Theatre in Goldsboro, or $5 worth of Chef Boyardee or Easy Mac products per person to benefit Pine Level- Micro Elementary School.

Hinnant Family Vineyards is located in Pine Level, NC and a member of the Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail. For more information about tickets, admission, or schedule of events, visit Hinnant Family Vineyards' website at www.hinnantfamilyvineyards.com or call 919-965-3350.

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8th Annual Historical "Ghost Walk" in Downtown Smithfield

The Johnston County Heritage Center's annual “Ghost Walk” through Smithfield's historic Riverside Cemetery is scheduled for Thursday evening, Oct. 25.

Guided tours with small groups will begin at 7 p.m. at the corner of South Second and Church streets – beside St. Paul's Episcopal Church. No tickets to the event will be sold in advance. Admission fees will be collected at the Ghost Walk’s starting point: $3 for adults and $2 for students in grades K-12 (pre-school children are admitted free of charge).

Tours will depart every five minutes or so until everyone has been “served.”

Stationed throughout the cemetery, volunteer re-enactors will portray half a dozen departed Johnstonians who left their mark on local history: Lieutenant Eric Ellington, one of the nation’s pioneering military aviators prior to World War I; Billy Rand, victim of an infamous hazing incident at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1912; Bertha Roe, African-American civic leader who was instrumental in establishing Girl Scout troops for young black girls in the years before racial integration; Dr. Stacy Duncan, beloved family physician who practiced in Benson from the 1930s into the 1960s; Edna Crump, a charitable woman who offered her residence as a foster home for untold numbers of babies and young children in the 1920s and 1930s; and an Unknown Confederate Soldier speaking for himself and several comrades buried in Riverside Cemetery following the Battle of Bentonville.

At the end of the course, refreshments will be offered by the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation inside the historic Hastings House beside the cemetery on Front Street.

In case of inclement weather, the event will be postponed till Thursday, Nov. 1.

For more information, call the Heritage Center at (919) 934-2836 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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JCC's Howell Woodstock is November 10

Johnston Community College’s Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center is making plans for its fifth annual Howell Woodstock on Saturday, Nov. 10.

Howell Woodstock offers many fun activities from noon until 7 p.m., including hayrides, nature walks, live music, star gazing, and a bonfire with s ’mores. The event will feature a variety of educational programs and booths related to conservation and green living, as well as reptile and birds of prey displays at the learning center.

This year’s event includes a nature photography contest and recreational activities such as a rock climbing wall, a mechanical bull, and a bounce house. Local vendors will also have food and drinks for sale.

“This year marks our fifth annual Woodstock, and we are excited to be offering more activities, exhibits, and demonstrations to educate, entertain, and enlighten the citizens of Johnston County,” said Ken Mitchell, associate vice president of auxiliary enterprises at JCC. “We invite folks to come out and enjoy the fun and see the natural beauty of the Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center.”

Howell Woods is a unique 2,800-acre natural resource located at 6601 Devil’s Racetrack Road in the Bentonville community of southeastern Johnston County. Howell Woodstock will be held rain or shine.

For more information about the event and Howell Woods, please visit www.johnstoncc.edu/howellwoods.

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Johnston County Visitors Bureau Wins Four Awards

The Destination Marketing Association of North Carolina (DMANC) is the trade association for over 40 Convention & Visitors Bureau from across the state. The Annual Meeting was held recently in Raleigh with over 120 travel professionals learning from speakers, networking and exchanging ideas on how best to promote our destinations in North Carolina.

One of the annual highlights is the Destination Marketing Awards banquet and the Johnston County Visitors Bureau has received over 40 awards in the past ten years.  This year the Johnston County Visitors Bureau received four awards: two platinum and two gold.

Receiving recognition this year with Platinum Awards was our Johnston County Visitors Bureau Visitors Guide and the Ava and Frank Leisure Advertising Campaign for the Ava Gardner Festival in 2011. Receiving Gold Awards was the Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail Brochure and our Girlfriend's Getaway Promotion featuring deals and coupons from local businesses and area hotels offering special rates.

Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director of the bureau attended the conference in Raleigh and accepted the awards on behalf of the bureau.  For more information on the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, our programs and general visitor promotion for the county, visit our web site, www.johnstoncountync.org.

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Selma Railroad Days Scheduled for October 5-6

The Town of Selma has a full slate of activities planned for the 37th Annual Selma Railroad Days beginning with the Friday night, October 5th, Gospel Concert featuring the Crusaders & Glory Bound Way.  Saturday, October 6th will again be a full day of activities for the entire family to enjoy beginning at 8am with the Railroad 5K Run and the Caboose Run. 

The day’s events include the Parade at 10am, the Selma Cornhole Classic at 11am, the East Coast Muscle Car Club Display at 11am and the NCWA Pro Wrestling event at 1pm.

“We couldn’t provide such a great festival without the help of so many people in and around the community,” said Joe Carter, festival organizer, “please let our sponsors know you appreciate their support."

All day activities include arts, crafts, food vendors, Children’s Crossing inflatables and games, Model Train Displays and music on three stages. Festival Entertainment Schedule for Saturday, October 6th will include:

Main Stage

12:00N            Opening Ceremonies

12:15pm          Backyard Groove

2:45pm            Mary Selvidge

4:00pm            The Shakedown

Gospel Stage

12:00N            Creech & Friends

2:00pm            Gospel Warriors

4:00pm            Living Waters

First Citizens Stage

12:00N            Area Queens

12:15pm          Studio M

12:45pm          Area Queens

1:00pm            Baker School of Dance

1:45pm            Area Queens

2:00pm            Steps on Stage

For additional information contact the Selma Parks & Recreation Department at 919-975-1411 or visit www.selma-nc.com.

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Ava Gardner Festival to Commemorate Friendship with Gregory Peck

Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner co-starred in three films together and called each other “great old pals.”  The 8th Annual Ava Gardner Festival scheduled for October 5-7, 2012 will commemorate Gardner and Peck’s life-long friendship with new exhibits, heritage tours, and vintage movies.

Peck once said, “It’s very hard to dominate Ava because of her essential strength of character, her honesty and this almost unreal beauty.” Their friendship lasted the entirety of their careers and upon her death he called Ava “outspoken”, “refreshing” and a “fine actress.”

The opening “Great Sinner” Gala on Friday will include casino games to echo the theme of the movie which was based on the 1866 short novel The Gambler written by Fyodor Dostoevsky.  Every attendee will be entered into a drawing for two tickets for The Embers Beach Music 5-day Cruise from Tampa, Florida to Cozumel and Grand Cayman, among other prizes. Tickets to the opening reception are $50 each and the festivities begin at 7pm.

Gardner and Peck starred together in the “The Great Sinner,” “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” and “On the Beach.”  All three movies will be shown at the museum on Saturday, October 6th.  In addition, the museum plans to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the filming of “To Kill a Mockingbird” during the festival and show the film on Sunday afternoon, October 7th.

Heritage tours on Saturday will be held throughout the day beginning at 9am. The guided tour will take visitors to places of significance to Ava, such as her birthplace, the Brogden Teacherage where she grew up, and will end at her gravesite at Sunset Memorial Park. All-day admission to the Ava Gardner Museum is $7 and heritage tour tickets are $12.

Living With Miss G, Authored by Mearene Jordan, Long-time Personal Assistant to Ava Gardner will be available at the festival and online. Many of the book’s real-life episodes arguably would rival some of the best fiction on the market. They range from excursions with billionaire Howard Hughes and visits at the Cuban estate of the loveable Ernest (“Papa”) Hemingway to painfully degrading moments in hotels, restaurants and clubs across America where blacks were not welcomed.

Jordan will be in Smithfield for the festival to celebrate her book’s release and to meet the many Ava Gardner fans. She will also make time to visit the grave of her employer and best friend for the first time since the star’s death in 1990. Living With Miss G is available for purchase in paperback and for Kindle at www.amazon.com.

The museum has partnered with several area hotels in Smithfield offering an “Ava Festival Package” which includes discount hotel accommodations, a gift bag from the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, and two tickets the museum to enjoy a movie presentation.  For more information on hotel accommodations, visit the website:  www.visitsmithfield.org

The 2012 official corporate sponsor- Smithfield's Chicken 'N Bar-B-Q

Smithfield's Chicken 'N Bar-B-Q

This year’s festival is presented by Smithfield Chicken N’ BBQ, a restaurant with a love for vintage movies which opened the first restaurant in Smithfield in 1964.  Each of the 33 restaurants has an Ava Gardner photo wall as a tribute to Smithfield’s native daughter. “The board of the Ava Gardner Museum is thrilled to partner with Smithfield Chicken N’ BBQ and we look forward to working with them to promote the restaurants as well, to the thousands of visitors that travel to Smithfield each year,” stated Todd Johnson, Museum Director.

The Ava Gardner Museum is located in downtown Smithfield, at 325 E. Market Street. More information may be found on the museum website, www.avagardner.org or call 919-934-5830 to purchase tickets in advance. The museum is open Monday-Saturday, 9-5pm and Sunday 2pm-5pm.

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Carolina Premium Outlets® to hold Pink Event throughout October

Carolina Premium Outlets® and Susan G. Komen for the Cure® are teaming up to support breast cancer awareness, research, and treatment programs in our community for the entire month of October through their Pink Event.

During the Pink Event, visit the on-site Information Center to donate $10 to support the cause and receive 25% off one single item from select stores including Adidas, Brooks Brothers, Clarks Bostonian, J. Crew, Nautica, Polo Ralph Lauren, Talbots, Tommy Hilfiger and more.

Donations will be accepted on-site only via cash or credit, with all contributions benefiting Komen NC Triangle. In connection with this national fundraising initiative benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, Premium Outlets is proud to support Komen, and with the help of generous customers, will guarantee a contribution of at least $100,000.

Komen NC Triangle will provide materials to answer questions regarding breast health and the organization's efforts. Each Saturday, enjoy light refreshments in select stores and entertainment in the Courtyard area from 12pm- 3pm as part of the Fall Concert Series presented by Coca-Cola.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure® is the boldest community fueling the best science and making the biggest impact in the fight against breast cancer. Please visit www.komen.org for more information about the organization.

For more details about the Pink Event and a full schedule on the Fall Concert Series, visit www.premiumoutlets.com/carolina or call 919-989-8757.

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Pumpkins, Corn Mazes and Hayrides- Fall Rolls into Johnston County

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

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, Family Dodge Ball, Picnic Shelter, Tire / Tractor Playground, Cow Milking and a giant slide. Open 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 seven 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, A Walk In The Dark!, and the Haunted Cotton Maze -- Try to find your way through the cotton alone and not be sidetracked by something or someone following too closely. Open Friday and Saturday nights in October, Sunday the 14th and 21st and the full week of Halloween, October 25-31st.

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.

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 start every Saturday in October 10:00 am - 2:00 pm. The farm is
open to the public for self-guided visits of Barnyard animals and exhibits, hayrides and a maze. The Great 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.  Lazy O Farm is located at 3583 Packing Plant Road, Smithfield, and for more information call 919-934-1132.

On October 13, journey to Smith’s Nursery Fall Festival to enjoy the day at the nursery with pumpkin picking, crafts, hayrides, relay races, corn hole, music, food and much more. Times for the festival are 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.smiths-nursery.com

This year’s Wilson’s Mills Pumpkin Festival is scheduled for Saturday, October 13 where visitors can join in the family fun with old fashion games, corn hole, antique farm equipment show, music, inflatables, dunkin booth and great food! And of course, get your pumpkins! Time of the event is 10am-4pm and all activities will take place at the Wilson’s Mills Town Hall area, call 919-938-3885 for more details.

For the first time, Tucker Lake in Benson is having a haunted hayride. These thrilling rides will take place every Friday and Saturday from 5pm-10pm, and Sundays from 1pm-5pm, September 28- October 28, and on Halloween. There will also be a kid friendly hayrides 5pm-7:30pm and all day Sundays. Come for the hayride, stay for the food, games, and fun. For more information http://www.hexagonwakepark.com, or call 919-207-1086.

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.

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63rd Annual Benson Mule Days® Celebration set for September 20-23

The town of Benson, North Carolina celebrates Benson Mule Days® the 4th Saturday of September each year. This year it will take place September 20-23.  This festival is considered one of the largest festivals in North Carolina and will kickoff with a Barrel Exhibition and Open Barrel Race Thursday night.

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

The parade alone attracts about 20,000 people and takes place Saturday, September 22 at 10am. The parade will feature bands, floats, antique tractors and hundreds of horses, mules, and buggies. Visitors come from as far away as Alaska, Germany and California.

Benson Mule Days® was inducted into the Library of Congress in Washington, DC in May of 2000. This festival was submitted by Congressman Bob Etheridge who attended the 50th celebration and served as a parade judge. The Chamber prepared information which is on display at the Library of Congress and on their website.

A week prior to the beginning of this annual celebration, a golf tournament is held at Reedy Creek, a local golf course. The tournament features a four man superball with prizes and a big cookout following a day of golf. This is open to all levels of golfers except professionals.

For a complete schedule of events or more information on Benson Mule Days®, including vendor, golf, and camping information, visit www.bensonmuledays.com, or call the Benson Area Chamber of Commerce at (919) 894-3825.

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Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail welcomes Over 400 in first Year

Three Johnston County wineries and one neighboring winemaker in the triangle have partnered to create the Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail. Hinnant Vineyards & Winery in Pine Level along with Enoch Winery of Benson, Gregory Winery in the McGee’s Crossroads Community and Adams Winery located along Hwy 42 West, have joined forces with the Johnston County Visitors Bureau to form the Wine and Agri-tourism Marketing Committee to launch this new trail.

Three Johnston County wineries and one neighboring winemaker in the triangle have partnered to create the Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail.   Hinnant Vineyards & Winery in Pine Level along with Enoch Winery of Benson, Gregory Winery in the McGee’s Crossroads Community and Adams Winery located along Hwy 42 West, have joined forces with the Johnston County Visitors Bureau to form the Wine and Agri-tourism Marketing Committee to launch this new trail.

With four wineries located within 30 minutes of each other, the wineries were already cross marketing to visitors and knew that working together to form a trail would have great appeal.

“It has been amazing working with the other wineries and the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, stated Wesley Dilles of Hinnant Winery. “I have been perusing this collaboration for years and to see it become a reality is just great!”  Additional activities of the Wine and Agri-Tourism Committee will include special events, promoting the vineyards for weddings, and a possible wine festival.

“They first approached the Visitors Bureau for some input, but we quickly agreed that visitors that seek out our vineyards would also enjoy learning about our other attractions, festivals and agri-tourism venues in the county.  We were on board to act as the marketing arm of this partnership with developing the website and brochure,” stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director of the Visitors Bureau.

The “determined” wine trail participant could easily complete the trail in one day, but they can take up to six months and then receive the Wine Trail t-shirt.  To complete the trail, visitors must enjoy a paid wine tasting option at each winery, and purchase one bottle from each winery per person. Each winery will validate the Wine Trail stamp located on the back of the trail brochure and the last winery stop on the trail will provide visitors with their t-shirt.

A general course of travel for the wine trail might be from Hinnant’s in Pine Level (I-95, Exit 97) to Enoch’s outside of Benson along NC Hwy 50 S, visitors will find the distance to travel around 30 minutes.  From there to complete the wine trail, visitors can head to Gregory’s Winery, I-40, Exit 319 or travel back through Benson, Hwy 50 N (travel time 30 minutes).  Adam’s Winery is located just minutes from Gregory, take Hwy 50 N and turn left on Hwy 42 West. (travel time 15 minutes).

“It is my hope that through this wine trail our guests will gain knowledge, respect, and a craving for the muscadine grapes and the wines that they produce.  Each of us has a different agricultural heritage that we can share with our guests. This wine trail is the perfect opportunity for each wine trail participant to discover all of the products and experiences that each winery has to offer,” continued Dills.

The Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail website offers visitors more information on the winemakers’ heritage, articles on the health benefits of Muscadines, educational resources through cooperative extension, information on hosting special events at the wineries, recipes and a photo gallery.  Check out the site to learn more about what Johnston County has to offer related to agri-tourism such as farm tours, farm markets, museums, festivals, and the arts.

For additional information about the Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail and the wineries participating, visit the website, www.muscadineheritagewinetrail.com or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to receive a brochure.

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Johnston County Sports Council Elects Chairman and Selects Logo Design

The Johnston County Sports Council met on August 21st and the first order of business was to elect Jim Godfrey of Clayton as chairman to lead the county-wide efforts to attract sports tournaments and steer the future development of sports and recreation facilities in the county.  Godfrey has extensive experience in sports marketing while previously working in the Kinston community.

“Having Jim lead our efforts to develop sports marketing in Johnston County is such a plus for our newly formed sports council – his previous experience will be of great value to us all,” stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director, Johnston County Visitors Bureau.

In other business, the Sports Council reviewed and adopted a new logo design created by the Johnston County Visitors Bureau to represent the group.  The new logo will be used throughout the marketing efforts and campaigns initiated by the Visitors Bureau.  Several projects of interest are currently underway around the county such as the Mountains to the Sea Trail, development of four new bike routes for leisure visitors, and several fall sporting events and tournaments.  Sporting events and tournaments are posted on the Visitors Bureau Calendar of Events on the website, www.johnstoncountync.org

As a member of the North Carolina Sports Association, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau will represent the county at the TEAMS Conference in Detroit on October 1-4, 2012.  The TEAMS Conference has the largest presence of NC representatives and the largest attendance from a variety of sports, including non-traditional sports.  Leads from all the contacts at TEAMS will be distributed to the members of the Sports Council and county sports organizations for additional follow up.

The Johnston County Tourism Authority established the Johnston County Sports Council last October.  The mission of the Sports Council is to bring together Parks & Recreation Departments and county-wide sports organizations to attract a wide range of sports tournaments and events to Johnston County, to market the county as a leisure sports destination, as well as, providing services to promote area visitor-related businesses.

The committee consists of the following members: Jim Godfrey – Chairman / Johnston County Tourism Authority Board Member, Tony Braswell – Johnston County Board of Commissioners, Matt Smith – Benson Parks & Recreation Department, Jonathan Allen – Clayton Parks & Recreation Department, Tim Narron – Kenly Parks & Recreation Department, Joe Carter – Selma Parks & Recreation Department, Gary Johnson - Smithfield Parks & Recreation Department, Charlie Metz – Johnston United Soccer Association, Ed Perfetto – McGees Crossroads Athletic Association, Philip Daniels – News & Observer, Rick Bartholomew – Princeton Little League, Mickey Bridgers – South Johnston High School Sports, Donna Bailey-Taylor – Johnston County Visitors Bureau, and serving as staff liaison, Amanda Astoske – Johnston County Visitors Bureau. The committee meets the 3rd week of each even numbered month for the purpose of any business.

For additional information about the Johnston County Sports Council, please contact Amanda Astoske at 919-989-8687.

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Five Ways to work with your Visitors Bureau

In this article you'll learn...that many businesses are not taking full advantage of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau and losing sales leads and brand awareness as a result. Five benefits of the Visitors Bureau which have the power to create additional sales revenue for your company.

In this article you'll learn...

    • That many businesses are not taking full advantage of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau and losing sales leads and brand awareness as a result.
    • Five benefits of the Visitors Bureau which may have the power to create additional sales revenue for your company.

Here are five ways business owners can derive value from their Visitors Bureau.

1. Get on the Visitors Bureau website

One of the very first challenges new business owners face is quickly spreading the word about their venture. Did you know that many bureaus offer visitor industry businesses space on the website often for free? Aligning your company with the bureau website is a strategic move that allows you to share in the large number of community visits it generates.

At the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, each local visitor industry business has their own profile page with photos, coupons, copy, and contact information. Companies can post coupons and specials throughout the year, share company news, and communicate with the community at large through their profile page.

2. Let the bureau promote your news

Most "how to" articles regarding free publicity tell you to ingratiate yourself with local reporters so that they will publish news about your company. At the visitors bureau, no such effort is needed. One of its services is publishing news about its visitor industry companies and promoting their events—on its website, in a weekly email, or in a newsletter. Inform your local bureau of what's new at your company.

3. Demonstrate your industry expertise via writing

As already mentioned, most visitor bureaus are eager to publish their visitor industry partner’s news and events. However, an even better way of using print to get in front of potential sales leads is to write an article that other business owners will find useful and relevant. Visitors Bureaus are very willing to post well-written articles submitted by members in their newsletter, BLOG on their website, or in their LinkedIn group.
Visitor industry partners who provide educational content are able to promote themselves as experts instead of salespersons. Readers can contact them for their expert advice, which then becomes a very easy sales lead to convert.

Ask your local visitors bureau for guidance on what is an appropriate format and then take the time to write a professional article that adds value to other businesses.

4. Talk about your business online and often

Many visitors bureaus have embraced a diverse marketing strategy that includes digital and social media.  Join in the conversations taking place with social media like Facebook, Youtube, Flickr, Linkedin and Pinterest.  The power of talking with the companies and friends of the visitors bureau is becoming one of the fastest growing, grassroots marketing tools available.
Connect to the visitors bureau in each and every way possible and start conversations and communicate.  The visitors bureau is seeking your content and has the means to quickly disseminate your company’s news and events to thousands of listeners.

5. Attend sales missions with your visitors bureau

You spend a large part of your day chasing down sales leads. Why not partner with the visitors bureau on their sales missions? Your local visitors bureau often have statewide, national and international exposure opportunities for your business.  Get with the sales and marketing department of your local visitors bureau and become an attendee or co-partner for a sales mission.  Totally emerge your marketing plan with those goals of the visitors bureau that are right for your business.

For more ways to work with the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, click here.

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Erin Bailey Joins the Johnston County Visitors Bureau Staff

Erin BaileyThe Johnston County Visitors Bureau is pleased to announce its recent hire of Erin Bailey, who has joined the Visitors Bureau staff as a Communications Assistant. Within this role, Bailey will assist with advertising and publicity of the county, as well as, work on website and email marketing for the Visitors Bureau.

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau is pleased to announce its recent hire of Erin Bailey, who has joined the Visitors Bureau staff as a Communications Assistant. Within this role, Bailey will assist with advertising and publicity of the county, as well as, work on website and email marketing for the Visitors Bureau.

"I am excited about the opportunity to work for the Visitors Bureau. I look forward to meeting and working with the visitor industry to help promote Johnston County and all it has to offer," stated Bailey.

Bailey, an Appalachian State University graduate, grew up in Clayton and is familiar with the attractions in Johnston County. Bailey earned a degree in Public Relations and has a background in web design.

“We are so pleased to welcome Erin to the Visitors Bureau and finding a native of Johnston County with PR and website experience is certainly a plus for our staff,” stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director, “having both skill sets will make for a smooth transition into her position.”

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau is the official destination marketing organization for the entire county.  The bureau’s mission is to attract and serve visitors to the county, therefore, increasing visitor spending for area tourism-related businesses. For more information, contact Donna Bailey-Taylor at 919-989-8687, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit the Johnston County Visitors Bureau website at www.johnstoncountync.org

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Primal Run Helps Build Miracle Field

Primal Mud Run, an intense challenge event which was held in Selma, NC in April, raised money for the Johnston County Partnership for Children, a local non-profit to help build a Miracle Field for the county.

“We like to give back to the community and felt that the mission of the Partnership for Children was a great fit for our race,” said race director Sean Ofeldt.

Partnership for Children members were onsite and received a portion of sales at the event held on the Cox Farm on Buffalo Road. The Miracle Field will be used to accommodate special needs children who do not have a baseball field to fit their needs.

“The park and ball field is a unique place that will draw people from outside our county as well as serve our local children and families and that is great for Johnston County,” said Partnership for Children Director Dr. Dwight Morris.

The Primal Mud Run asks the question: If civilization ended today, would you survive tomorrow? Participants had to climb, crawl and run through four and a half miles of trails. The obstacle course race attracted over 1,300 participants and included 20 military style obstacles. Prizes are awarded to the top three males and females of each division based on time. All participants receive a free event t-shirt, food is provided and the event features live music.

The next run is scheduled for October 13th of this year in at the same location near Selma. Early discount pricing is available. This event is a good opportunity to test your endurance and help a good cause.

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Flower's Give Back in Many Ways!

melroses_sunflowers.jpgLast year, the staff of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau began working with and getting to know local farmer, Melrose Haas.

Melrose is not a tobacco farmer or cash crop farmer...she grows flowers in the Brogden Community on Melrose's Farm, 4 miles east of Smithfield  (near Ava's birthplace).  In a very short time, Melrose has realized a dream to grow the flowers she loves and see the joy of many residents, brides and visitors from around the state that want to utilize locally grown products.

We love all things local in Johnston County...from strawberries in the spring, flowers all summer, blueberry picking, and a fall season full of sweet potatoes or pumpkins.  Farming is our heritage and more and more visitors are discovering why we love our land, the simple joys and sometime heartaches of farming and the bountiful fruits of our labors.

Melrose, like so many of our agri-tourism friends in the county, summed up our corporate philosophy so simply we wanted to share it:

"Many thanks for embracing my passion for the farm, and supporting my efforts.  I am busy, tired, and excited all in the same moment, which is a bit much even for me.  I'm just thrilled to have ya'll on my team.  Makes me smile...so much thanks for all you do."

Below are the news bits from Melrose's newsletter...so we thought we would share what's happening on the farm with our online community.  Don't miss the opportunity to meet the wonderful farmers and local food product companies here in Johnston County.  This is the first blog in a series so you can meet the farmer's we love in Johnston County!

Melrose’s Farm:  Bucket Club Subscription

During 2011, my first season, I offered a bucket club subscription to a few businesses, and personal friends of the farm.  It was a way to get my flowers out in the public, and get valuable feedback.  From the favorable reports of 2011, I am expanding my bucket club subscriptions for 2012.

Here are the details:  I will deliver to your office or home (within 10 miles of farm, or on flower route schedule) a bucket of fresh cut flowers approximately every two weeks during the months of June-October.  The price range of the flowers will be $22-$40 depending on varieties, and quantities.  It will be plenty for a huge arrangement or several small bouquets.  You supply the vases, and I will put the arrangement together, or deliver and leave them in your bucket for you to arrange.  I have found that many customers enjoy placing the flowers in their new home.  And that businesses like for me to arrange for them.  Of course, you can add or make adjustments, depending on availability, and calling/emailing me ahead of time.  And of course you can come out to the farm, and buy direct.  It is best to call me to make sure I am at the farm.  I am often out making deliveries, or selling to local florists.  I am hoping to have 20 bucket club subscriptions for the 2012 season, and appreciate all the positive encouragement I received during 2011.  I think the best comments from 2011 included:  “long lasting flowers, so fresh and fragrant, thanks for showing the farm in operation.”

Payment Options:

-If you pre-pay for the season, I will add “extra” flowers, and the fee is $280 for the season.  This should be 2 deliveries per month, for 5 months, at an average of $28 per bucket of flowers.

-You can pay bi-weekly or monthly, from the invoice left on previous delivery.

Farm News 2012:

WOW!  What an exciting start for 2012.  With the warm winter, and the additional flowers I have added this season, I am eagerly awaiting a generous offering of flowers this year.  I have added snap dragons, dahlias, new hydrangeas, more tuberose, tons of lilies, plus others.  I have been cutting a few stems of larkspur, and dianthus, and peonies.  Every day, I see more showing signs of blooms.  Soon, we will have glads, dahlias, lilies, and more lilies, and lots of sunflowers.  We plant a bed of sunflowers every week.  We have 6 beds already started.

    • I am selling to most of our local florists, and appreciate customers asking for my flowers with their florists.  Word of mouth advertising has been the best source of growth at the farm.
    • The farm is open, and I am away at times making deliveries, and sales.  This year I am officially opening the farm on Thursdays (beginning June) from 4pm till dark.  This is an opportunity to come out and buy direct from the farm.  Please bring your bucket to transport your flowers, or I can wrap them for you.  And you can always call or email me ahead of time, and pick up your flowers any day of the week.
    • I have several weddings already booked, and like the DIY bride.  I am a better grower, than designer, and I like to work with designers, and local florists.

Flowers In June:

I am having Shane Smith from The Vine and Branch in Four Oaks out to the farm for a flower arranging event.  You are invited to bring out your favorite vase(s), pick your flowers (value $20, or add on and make it bigger) out of the cooler and/or fields, and work with Shane to make an arrangement to take home.  The price is $25 and up, depending on the size of the vase.  It is an evening of fun at the farm.  Date is set for June 12, 2012, from 6pm till everyone is full of flowers, information, and education.  There is a limited number if slots for people to come, so call me to confirm your reservation for this event.

Summer Solstice Event

June 20th, 2012   5pm till dark.  This is an annual event here at the farm.  Come out, take a walk around, enjoy a cool beverage, and bring all your friends.  This is for anyone interested in seeing a flower farm in operation, and for anyone who loves flowers.

Evening with Tuberose

In July, we will have an Evening with Tuberose. The date is set for 7/17/2012, a Tuesday evening.  They are the most fragrant at dusk, and can be intoxicating.  I will leave a bed of these flowers for us to enjoy the blooms, and you can take some home, to share with those you love, or bring them with you.  Price not set yet.

We have been busy getting ready, and planting, and weeding, and working on a new field.  Thanks for the support.  Please share this with flower lovers.

Melrose Edwards Haas
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

3299 Brogden Road
Smithfield, NC  27577

Facebook: melrosefarms

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