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

Grammy Winner Dianne Reeves Featured In Final Palladian Series Performance

Performs at The Clayton Center on April 1—no foolin’

CLAYTON, N.C – Dianne Reeves – widely considered to be one of the most significant singers in jazz today – will appear with her quartet to close The Clayton Center’s 2010-11 Palladian Series on April 1 at 8pm.

Reeves is the only recording artist in any singing category to have won the Grammy for Best Vocal Performance for three consecutive recordings: A Little Moonlight in 2003, The Calling in 2001 and In The Moment – Live in Concert in 2000. In 2006, she went on to win the award for a record-breaking fourth time for her soundtrack to the George Clooney film Good Night, and Good Luck.

Reeves’ most recent release, the 2008 CD, When You Know, is a, collection of love songs whose perspective on love ranges from youthful innocence to enlightened maturity. Produced by George Duke, When You Know is Reeves’ most commercial offering in years. Among the featured tracks are The Temptations’, “Just My Imagination” and Minnie Ripperton's "Loving You." She is scheduled to release a new album later this year.

Reeves’ was clearly born of jazz. Her singing draws upon a world of influence, and much like Carmen McRae and Billie Holiday, Reeves is tied to a powerful storytelling instinct. She was the first vocalist signed to the reactivated Blue Note/EMI label in 1987, and as a result of her unique R&B and jazz stylings, she has since captured a huge following and tremendous critical acclaim throughout the world.

Tickets for Dianne Reeves are $27.50 and can be purchased by phone at 919-553-1737, at The Clayton Center Box Office from 10 a.m. until noon and from 1 until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or online at www.theclaytoncenter.com.

The Clayton Center’s 2010-11 season also included performances by comedian Jon Reep, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Kathy Mattea, James Cotton and guitarist Tommy Emmanuel.

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Native American exhibit on display in Frank Creech Art Gallery

Saponi DancersStephen Greer’s “Still” is the latest exhibit on display in the Frank Creech Art Gallery at Johnston Community College.

Greer’s paintings celebrate rich Native American heritage, regalia, and dance. The collection will be on display March 14 - April 15.

A resident of Jacksonville, Greer said the inspiration for the exhibit came while attending an Indian powwow more than a decade ago. “When I saw and heard North Carolina Native Americans in full regalia making their grand entry into the ceremonial circle, I knew I would record that experience in paint,” Greer said.

Candid sketches, photographs, and memories of the powwows of the Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Waccamaw Siouan, and Occaneechi-Saponi tribes provide the visual references in Greer’s creations.

An alumnus of Campbell University, Greer has participated in a host of exhibitions across North Carolina including the Onslow Council for the Arts, Beaufort County Council for the Arts, and most recently at his alma mater. His work has also been on display at James Sprunt Community College, Onslow County Schools, and permanently at the Community Council for the Arts in Kinston.

Greer’s honors include Best in Show, Coastal Carolina Community College Public Art Show 2005 and 2006; Onslow County Artist Award, Onslow Art Society’s Images 2007 Show; first place, Coastal Carolina Community College Public Art Show 2007; first place, Kinston Plein-Air Paint Out Competition 2008 and numerous others.

JCC’s Frank Creech Art Gallery, which is located in the Arts Building on the main campus, is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon. Admission is free.

245 College Road
Smithfield, NC 27577 919-209-2563

Contact: Traci D. Ashley
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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JCC Arboretum - Plant a Row for the hungry

The JCC Arboretum is dedicating several rows of spring and fall vegetable crops to feed the hungry. Volunteers are needed to help grow the seedlings in the greenhouse, transplant and maintain the crops in the ground, and harvest the food for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. Knowledgeable staff will help you understand each of these processes while you gain valuable hands-on experience that you can transfer to your own home garden.

For more details or to sign up, please call Lin Frye, Arboretum director, at 919-209-2052 or Minda Daughtry, Arboretum technician, at 919-209-2184.

Southern Symposium is March 5

The JCC Arboretum will feature fiddle and banjo player Marvin Gaster and guitarist Richard Owens at this year’s Southern Symposium on Saturday, March 5. The event will be held from 2 till 4 p.m. in the Paul A. Johnston Auditorium. The symposium will focus on the woods that have been used to create the wonderful old-timey sounds of the fiddle. Tickets are $45. Heavy hor d’oerves will be served. For further information, please call Lin Frye at 919-209-2052 or Minda Daughtry 919-209-2184.

Established in 1969, Johnston Community College is a comprehensive community college within the North Carolina System, offering 58 academic programs and numerous continuing education programs, services and opportunities.  The College provides programming through its main campus in Smithfield as well as the Arboretum, Cleveland Center, Rudolph Howell & Son Environmental Learning Center and the Workforce Development Center.  JCC is fully accredited by the Commission of Colleges, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award certificates, diplomas and associate degrees.


Traci D. Ashley
245 College Road
Smithfield, NC 27577

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Acting Deputy Under Secretary O'Brien Announces Investments in Essential Rural Community Facilities

The Town of Smithfield welcomed Doug O'Brien, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development.   Mr. O'Brien announced investments totaling $85 million in 54 projects in 25 states and one territory to improve rural community facilities such as schools, health care facilities, libraries and first responder services and equipment.

North Carolina will receive a total of $9.8 million for the Town of Smithfield, Winterville Community Rural Fire Association, Town of Ahoskie, Neuse Charter School and City of Dunn.

The Town of Smithfield is receiving $2,806,400 for the Smithfield Crossings project.  The $8.2 million total project cost is possible because of federal, state and local funding support.  The funds will be used to construct a safe and efficient traffic circulation system for the I-95 (Exit 95) and Hwy 70 Business roadway.  The high volume of traffic especially during peak commuting hours is creating a dangerous situation for the southbound I-95 travelers.  The roadways in this area serve the retail outlet area, Johnston Community College and the businesses located along Industrial Drive.  Closure of this exit would jeopardize the future growth of the retail areas which will significantly impact a primary revenue stream for the Town and the County.  It is estimated that this area represents as high as 80 percent of all sales tax revenue.

Neuse Charter School, the only charter school in Johnston County, is the recipient of a loan guarantee of $2,790,000 from USDA Rural Development and Self Help Credit Union.  The funds will be used for the purchase of a 26 acre site to be developed for additional modular units, space for physical education and future growth of the school.  The current enrollment for grades K - 9 is 392 students.  The addition of grades 10 - 12 is planned which will require additional modular units.  The charter school was recognized as a 2009 NC School of Distinction and 2010 NC Honor School of Excellence.

USDA Rural Development's mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. USDA Rural Development administers and manages more than 40 housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs as laid out by Congress.  These programs area designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, foster growth in homeownership, finance business development, and support the creation of critical community and technology infrastructure.

USDA Rural Development has 9 Area Offices and 11 field offices across the state serving North Carolinians living in rural areas and communities.  Area Office locations are in Asheville, Jefferson, Asheboro, Henderson, Lumberton, Smithfield, Greenville, Kinston and Shelby.  Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office www.rurdev.usda.gov/nc or by visiting the USDA Rural Development website at www.rurdev.usda.gov <http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/> .

Contact: Delane Johnson

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What is being said about your business on the web?

Local business owners can not ignore the power of consumer reviews on the web today.  And savvy business owners are watching and responding to customers whether the comment is positive or negative. The consumer is looking for real conversation and referrals to make their buying decisions.

Consumers over the last ten years have seized upon the World Wide Web as a platform to access more authentic perspective on prospective purchases. Witness yelp.com, epinions.com, gizmodo.com , and tripadvisor.com, among a whole host of other similar sites. Some such web-based enterprises now provide direct customer perspective for very specific purchases. This internet business provides raw, unfiltered testimonies -- both in written and video form -- from current undergraduate students about what it's really like to go to various colleges and universities. Admission departments surely cringe, but prospective students increasingly rely upon this real perspective, versus the official glossy brochures put forth by the self-promoting schools themselves.

The same holds true for destination marketing!  Check what consumers are saying - it may be the saving grace for your business in this economy.

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Blues Giant James “Superharp” Cotton Headlines Clayton’s Sixth Annual Blues Bash

All shows in the 2010-2011 Palladian Series begin at 8 p.m. in the renovated and historic 600-seat auditorium at 111 E. Second St. in downtown Clayton, located about 15 miles east of Raleigh.

Tickets for Blues Bash VI: Superharps can be purchased by phone at 919-553-1737, at The Clayton Center Box Office from 10 a.m. until noon and from 1 until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or online at www.theclaytoncenter.com.

CLAYTON, N.C – Between his huge sound, his larger-than-life personality and his massive frame, Grammy Award-winning blues harmonica master James “Superharp” Cotton is a blues giant in every respect.

Cotton, who in 2010 celebrates his 66th year as a professional musician, headlines The Clayton Center’s Blues Bash VI: Superharps on Friday, Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. The event also features local Piedmont bluesmen Tad Walters Trio.

Over the course of his 66-year career, James Cotton has seemingly done it all. As a small boy he learned harmonica directly from Sonny Boy Williamson. He toured with Howlin’ Wolf, recorded for Sun Records and spent 12 years with Muddy Waters before stepping out on his own. Leading his own band, he rose to the very top of the blues and rock scenes, touring the world non-stop and earning his reputation as one of the most powerful live blues performers in the world.

Cotton was universally renowned as one of the hardest-touring and most popular blues artists of the 1970s. His acrobatic showmanship – he often did somersaults on stage – and full-throttle blues kept him in demand at concert halls all over the country. He continued to record and perform throughout the 1980s and won a Grammy Award in 1996 for his album Deep In The Blues.

Cotton’s honors are numerous. He was inducted into the Blues Hall Of Fame in 2006 and was honored by the Smithsonian Institution when one of his harmonicas was added to its permanent collection.

Throughout this decade, Cotton has continued to record – his latest release is the 2010 Giant (Alligator Records) – and tour relentlessly, electrifying audiences all over the world. Today, while turning over the singing duties to his road band, Cotton can still blow the reeds right out of a harp.

Tad Walters, who was born in Canton, Ohio, and raised in Raleigh, was influenced by the likes of Blind Boy Fuller, Robert Lockwood, Charlie Patton, Robert Nighthawk and John Jackson, among others. He began his professional music career with the Bob Margolin Band in 1996. For four years he traveled the world with the band, playing with musicians like Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Billy Boy Arnold and Cary Bell.

In 2001 Walters joined the Big Bill Morganfield band and stayed until 2004. He currently concentrates on Piedmont blues and old-time jazz with Dave Andrews.

All shows in the 2010-2011 Palladian Series begin at 8 p.m. in the renovated and historic 600-seat auditorium at 111 E. Second St. in downtown Clayton, located about 15 miles east of Raleigh.

Tickets for Blues Bash VI: Superharps can be purchased by phone at 919-553-1737, at The Clayton Center Box Office from 10 a.m. until noon and from 1 until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or online at www.theclaytoncenter.com.

The fifth show in the Palladian Series is Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel on Saturday, Feb. 26. Reserved seating for Tommy Emmanuel is sold out. Standing Room Only tickets are on sale for $15.

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From the Farm to the Table Tours

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau in Smithfield, NC has been engaged in Agri-tourism development for the last several years, working with our farmers to increase sustainability for our rural heritage and showcasing that to our visitors.  Johnston County is one of the fastest growing counties in the US, located 30 minutes east of Raleigh, the state capital.  And we have the largest number of working farms in the state with around 1200 farms in operation today.  Combining extreme residential growth and agriculture is one of our greatest challenges.  We embarked on a proactive position over seven years ago and we have successfully worked with Lazy O Farms who conducts educational farm experiences for school age children and Boyette Farms that has created seasonal entertainment with the Clayton Fear Farm at Halloween and Lights on the Neuse, a Christmas light celebration.

In addition, we are selling to group tours the on-farm experience seeing where local foods are grown and how local farmers get produce and product to the marketplace.  These tours are followed with a special dinner at a local restaurant featuring food items of the season.  Visitors will see, taste and touch the food products that later that evening will be served to them for dinner, as well as, recipe cards will be provided as parting gifts.

Our farmers are excited to share their stories of family heritage, growth, hardships, and how to survive in today’s market place – it is often about adaptability and change.

Below is a sample Group Tour Itinerary suitable for 15 to 40 people.  We will customize the trip based on the time of year the group visits our area.  If you would like more information, please give us a call.  Other themed farm experiences include:  Cotton Picking Tour, Tobacco Farm Heritage Tour, Pick It, Taste It, Take it Home Tour and the Ham & Yam Festival Tour.

From the Farm to the Table

Group Tour Itinerary – Smithfield, NC

Enjoy the “in-the-field” experience of learning about food products and processing operations such as Atkinson’s Mill and Smithfield’s Ham Shop. Learn about local farming and taste the delicious results at a local restaurant! This tour can be customized, based on seasonal availability—strawberries in the Spring and sweet potatoes in the Fall. It’s all good!

Day One

9am     Atkinson’s Mill

Built in 1757, Atkinson’s Mill has been in operation for over 250 years. It is the only water-powered gristmill in the area. Owners Ray and Betty Wheeler will give your group a tour of the mill’s operation. Food demonstrations of how to make hush puppies are optional. Don’t forget a trip to the onsite gift shop for the best biscuit mix anywhere! Open Monday-Friday, 8am- 5pm. Free .1 hour

10:15am   Smithfield’s Ham Shop

Visit Smithfield’s Ham Shop, home of world-famous Johnston County Hams. Along with their tasty hams, the shop offers a large selection of unusual treats that include gourmet coffees, jams, cheeses, candies and more North Carolina Goodness Grows products. Free. .45 minutes

11am   Hinnant Family Vineyards & Winery

Located in Pine Level, this family-owned winery offers picturesque vineyards complete with tours and wine-tasting. The Hinnant Family has been dedicated to cultivating the best quality Muscadine grapes in North Carolina for over 35 years. The on-site gift shop offers many varieties of wines, jellies, juices and gifts, including award-winning Muscadine wines. Tours are free. Wine tasting is $4 per person. .45 minutes.

12:30pm   Lunch at Holt’s Lake BBQ

Holt’s Lake BBQ is a favorite locally owned restaurant that serves it up “family style” with BBQ, fried chicken, shrimp and flounder with all the vegetables, hush puppies and sweet tea you’ll need. $11 per person includes tax and gratuities.

2pm    Lee Sweet Potato Farm

At Lee Farm in Four Oaks, sweet potatoes are the crop of choice. Johnston County is the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the country. During other times of the year, visit our other farms that include the Kidd Giant Garlic Farm, Barham Tomato Greenhouse, and Creekside Blueberry Farm. $5 per person. .1 hour

4:30pm     Hotel Check-in

6:30pm    Dinner, Southern Style.

Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant with a special menu. All attendees receive custom printed menus from the dinner as a gift. Local chefs will offer cooking demonstrations along with dinner. $25 per person.

Day Two

9:30am    Tobacco Farm Life Museum

Learn more about area farmers and their families and the differences from the “old ways” of the 19th century and today. Tour the 6,000 square foot museum that chronicles the everyday life of Eastern North Carolina farm families and explore the depression-era homestead, including the kitchen, packhouse, and tobacco barn. Optional activities include heritage games, butter churning, and craft demonstrations. $5 per person.  1 hour

Depart for home with sample menus from all the sites your group visited and memories of good home cooking, warm and inviting smiles, and a taste of Johnston County. Minimum number in group – 15 people.

Range of Hotel Room Rates

$45.00-$65 plus 7.25 % state tax and 5% local room tax.

Planning Assistance for Costing the Farm Trail Cost for Tour - $50 per person. Fee includes museum admissions, farm tour, one lunch, and one dinner.

Sample Menu

Salad Greens with Prosciutto, Blueberries & Toasted Pecans
Butternut Squash Bisque
Wood-Fired Grilled Shrimp with garlic and herbs
Atkinson’s Mill Cornmeal Flatcakes
Seasoned Greens or steamed fresh vegetables
Sweet Tea with Mint
Hinnant Family Vineyard Wines
Sweet Potato Cheesecake


For further information about Johnston County and to customize one or more of these tours, contact:

Amanda Astoske, Group Sales Manager
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Johnston County Visitors Bureau
235-A East Market St., Smithfield, NC 27577
1-(800) 441-7829
(919) 989-6295 fax

Visit our web site: www.johnstoncountync.org

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Frank Creech Art Gallery Debuts On JCC Campus

Johnston Community College has officially opened The Frank Creech Art Gallery. The new gallery, located in the Arts Building on the JCC campus, is a collaborative project between the College Foundation, the Johnston County Arts Council, and the College’s Fine Art and Graphic Design faculty to recognize the late Creech’s significant contributions to the visual arts community.

Frank and Friends, the gallery’s inaugural exhibit, will include 20 pieces of Creech’s collection from various periods in his career as well as well as other art of his colleagues and students.

An open house to introduce the museum-quality exhibition space to the college and larger community is planned from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3. A private dedication ceremony will be held Thursday evening, Dec. 2.

JCC President David Johnson said the College is honored to house the art gallery in Creech’s name. The gallery will serve as an integral education component for JCC’s art students as well as a source of cultural enrichment for the Johnston County community.

“Frank was a unique individual who loved JCC, his community, and the expression of life through his art,” Johnson said. “It is fitting to have a specific facility on campus which memorializes his contributions as faculty member and artist. We are extremely grateful for all of Frank’s friends and family who have had a part in making this opening a reality.”

A graduate of Duke and Florida State universities, Creech was admired for his distinct collection of sculptures and paintings that reflected his passion for visual expression. Creech taught and later led the Art Department at JCC. His artwork is in private and public collections and in museums throughout the United States. His cast bronze and aluminum sculptures are displayed on the campuses of Duke, Yale, Delaware, Penn State and Francis Marion universities. Other public commissioned works include “The Story Teller” at the Gaston County Public Library and “The Reader” at the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield. Creech’s “The Rescue” is at the entrance of the Paul A. Johnson Auditorium on the JCC campus. In 2005, he was named to the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest civilian honor.

The 1,500-square-foot gallery contains state-of-the-art exhibition space as well as a 750-foot reception area to eventually be used for the public sale of artwork. The gallery interior is equipped with museum-quality lighting, climate control, hanging and security systems. With its grey, hand-finished concrete floors, contemporary white walls, and distinct crown molding, the exhibition space balances a modern feel with traditional Southern architecture.

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The Madness in Smithfield Begins on Black Friday

In Smithfield the main attraction is outlet shopping and the staff at Carolina Premium Outlets goes the extra mile and puts together hotel packages for Midnight Madness shoppers.  The best suggestion for a successful shopping experience is to make it a weekend visit.  Plan on a relaxing evening preparing for a marathon of shopping and when the bags are full – sleep in.

The outlets open up for Midnight Madness around 12am after the Thanksgiving leftovers are all put away, but the most diehard of shoppers bring their lawn chairs and line the sidewalks in front of their favorite outlet store waiting to get the best bargains.  For more information visit the outlet center website, www.premiumoutlets.com/carolina


After-Thanksgiving Weekend Sale featuring Midnight Madness
Fri - Sun, Nov 26 - 28

Don't miss the biggest sale of the year. Enjoy exceptional holiday savings and extended shopping hours, plus, experience Midnight Madness as stores open their doors at midnight right after Thanksgiving ends.* Some stores may open even earlier.

Carolina Premium Outlets®

Midnight Madness Shop & Stay Package, Thursday, November 25-28, 2010

Local hotel offers a special rate, gift bags, and late check outs:

Sleep Inn & Suites, Smithfield, NC

One night stay plus deluxe continental breakfast and late check out for only $64.99 plus tax.  Each guest will receive:

    • Carolina Premium Outlets brochure, map and VIP Coupon Book
    • Schedule of Midnight Madness sale events
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Hospitality Training Program, “Hospitality Heroes” Available October 1st

Be A Hospitality Hero in Johnston County!  Over the last several months, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau (JCVB) has partnered with Johnston Community College’s Small Business Center to develop a hospitality training program named “Hospitality Heroes”.  This training course will be FREE to new and existing tourism industry employees in the county and it will be available October 1, 2010.  The tourism industry employees in hotels, restaurants, retail, attractions, festivals/event planners, meeting venues, and transportation services will be eligible for the training.

“Hospitality Heroes has been designed as a FREE online course for tourism industry employees in the county, which we hope will become a regular part of their employee orientation process,” stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director, JCVB. “The Visitors Bureau had tried several different ways to provide customer service training to the tourism industry in the past, with guest speakers, staff presentations, and industry specific programs.”

“This new program is much more assessable for the nearly 4,500 full and part-time tourism industry employees in the county.  We owe JCC a wealth of gratitude for their willingness to partner with us”, continued Bailey-Taylor.  “When we called JCC and pitched this idea, they didn’t hesitate at all, and we just couldn’t have done this without Rosa Andrews and the blackboard technical staff at JCC.”

“Hospitality Heroes” will unify Johnston County’s tourism industry by teaching front line employees about tourism, their local destination, and give helpful tips on customer service.  The course will run every month with enrollment at JCC starting on the 1st of each month.  Enrollment is open until the 25th of each month for the next month’s class, and after enrollment employees will have one 30 days to complete the course.

“JCC is very excited to partner with the Johnston County Visitors Bureau to create Hospitality Heroes for use by the tourism industry in Johnston County. This is an example of using the technology and learning tools of our college to meet a need in the community! I have no doubt that the students in this program will enjoy the learning environment and will enrich their work by participating,” stated Rosa Andrews, Director of Small Business Center and Occupational Licensure, Economic and Workforce Development.

The goals of the Hospitality Heroes course include giving new and existing employees a better understanding of the Visitors Bureau and the organization’s role to promote the county.  They will be provided information about Johnston County’s things to do, places to stay, dining, entertainment, recreation, meeting venues, and the many shopping and outlet opportunities which will help them answer visitor questions when approached on the job.  Just having this basic information and knowing the visitors bureau provides marketing materials like the Visitors Guide, Visitor Maps and the website will help front-line employees do their jobs.

For more general information on the tourism industry, employees will be given facts and figures about national, state and local visitor spending, visitor profiles, and many additional resources to tourism organizations’ websites.  The Johnston County Visitors Bureau partners with and belongs to several of these state and national organizations who conduct national research studies to provide the most up-to-date travel trends.

Through a license agreement with “License to Serve”, a program developed through Destination Marketing Association International, employees will learn basic customer service techniques.  The goals of the customer service module are: to promote a more positive public image, improve internal and external professional relationships and networks, establish an environment of optimum customer service, positively differentiate the organization from competition, and increase the number of new customers and retain current customers.

With course completion, employees will receive a Hospitality Heroes certificate, a gift bag from JCVB, vouchers to local attractions within the county, and an invitation to an annual luncheon during National Tourism Week each May, to be recognized by the community as a tourism ambassador.

To get additional information about the Hospitality Heroes program offered by JCVB in partnership with JCC, and how to get your employees enrolled, contact Amanda Astoske at 919.989.8687 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The mission of the Johnston County Convention & Visitors Bureau is marketing our destinations to visitors, thereby, encouraging utilization of accommodations, retail outlets, restaurants, heritage sites, museums, entertainment and recreation venues for the community’s economic benefit.



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Feel The Mojo At The Clayton Center 2010-11 Season Release & Community Event Showcase Is Aug. 27

The Clayton Center celebrates the 2010-11 Palladian Series in style on Friday, Aug. 27, with an event guaranteed to get your mojo going.

The Clayton Center Season Kick-Off & Community Event Showcase will feature a concert by Mel Melton & the Wicked Mojos, the official release of the 2010-2011 season lineup, giveaways, door prizes, light refreshments and an opportunity to hear about the major special events coming up in Clayton.

The mojo kicks in at 6 p.m. when The Clayton Center opens its doors to the Community Event Showcase. Civic and community organizations, including the Downtown Development Association, Clayton Chamber of Commerce, Clayton Parks and Recreation Department, Clayton Visual Arts, Clayton Historical Association, Clayton Woman’s Club, Clayton Farm and Community Market and Clayton Youth Theater, will be present to talk about their upcoming activities. Showcase participants will have giveaways throughout the evening.

The Clayton Center also will sponsor several door prizes. The grand prize is two season tickets to the 2010-2011 Palladian Series, which runs from October through April. The total value of the ticket package is $270.

The concert, which begins at 8 p.m. in The Clayton Center Auditorium will follow the release of The Clayton Center’s eight season.

Mel Melton & The Wicked Mojos is a popular zydeco/Cajun flavored blues band. Nicknamed “The Zydeco Chef,” the multi-talented Melton cooks on stage as well as in the kitchen as owner of Durham’s Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse restaurant. He’s a classic blues harmonica musician who is backed by a talented band that gets its audiences out of their seats and on their feet before they know what hit them. When Melton describes the Wicked Mojos’ music, he says, “There's zydeco, of course, and Cajun and blues, and New Orleans jazz and funk. But as far as what we're playing, I call it Mojo Music."

Tickets to the event are $15. The first 100 patrons to purchase a ticket also will receive admission to the private wine tasting event. Wine tasting participants will vote for their favorite wines of the evening. The most popular wines will be served by The Clayton Center during the Palladian Series. Light refreshments also will be served, and a cash bar will be open in the main lobby.

For more information about the Clayton Center Season Kick-Off & Community Event Showcase, call The Clayton Center box office at 919-553-1737, Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m.

Tickets may be purchased at the box office, located at 111 E. Second St. in downtown Clayton, about 15 miles east of Raleigh, or by phone, or online at www.theclaytoncenter.com.

Popular artists presented in past seasons at The Clayton Center include Kathy Mattea, Ricky Skaggs, Johnny Winter, Jesse Cook, John Pizzarelli, Doc Watson, Eileen Ivers, Riders In the Sky, the Harlem Gospel Choir and David Sedaris.

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What will the Toll be on the tourism industry on I-95?

Thursday, AUGUST 19th
Citizens Informational Workshop
Johnston Community College
Lobby, Paul A. Johnston Auditorium

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau encourages all local citizens, business leaders, and elected officials to learn more about the I-95 Toll Road issue and the potential impact on our communities in Johnston County. In a recent meeting, a concerned group of tourism professionals, chamber and economic development leaders heard from NCDOT more about the survey being conducted on toad improvements and how to fund the needed repairs on I-95. What we heard was “no toll, no road” which feels like we have no option but to accept the tolls.

Everyone agrees I-95 needs improvements, however saying .10 or .20 per mile is deceptive. When you do the math for travelers through our state you are really talking about $36 to $70 roundtrip. That will change travel decisions and have an impact on being competitive for economic development. Yes, all this has to be “approved”, but if we wait until the votes are cast to be vocal, I think it will be a case of ”too little too late”.

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau will be developing our own (5) points of concern and conduct surveys of residents, business leaders, elected officials and our visitors to provide additional information on this issue. I hope we will work together to get this survey out to the community, to educate them on the issues and to get their feedback. Make no mistake, this “user fee” is not just a tax on visitors, but for each one of us in the county. I personally commute on I-95 daily and at $2.50 each way to Benson, it would mean up to $1,200 a year. Will I drive US 301 like many other commuters…yes, and how can US 301 handle the additional traffic? Where would the money come from to make improvements on US 301 if there is no money for I-95?

Right now, there are more concerns and questions than answers. As leaders in our community, let’s step up and make sure we are thinking big picture and come up with the best solutions for Johnston County as well as all the communities along I-95.

NC Carolina DOT will hold a series of seven public meetings, known as Citizens Informational Workshops, for the I-95 Corridor Planning and Finance Study. They will be held in several facilities near the I-95 corridor, throughout the state of NC, beginning at 4pm and ending at 7pm. In addition, you can email NCDOT at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit www.driving95.com for more information.

I-95 Corridor Study, Citizen Informational Workshop Dates:

Thursday, August 19, 2010
Johnston County
Johnston Community College, Smithfield

Monday, August 23, 2010
Wilson County
Bill Ellis Convention Center, Wilson

Thursday, August 26, 2010
Harnett County
Dunn Recreation Department-Community Center

Monday, August 30, 2010
Robeson County
Robeson Community College, Lumberton

Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Cumberland County
Holiday Inn – I-95/Cedar Creek Road, Fayetteville

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“Clues on the Neuse” Event, Sunday, October 10 Celebrates Johnston County’s Contribution to NC Mountains-to-Sea Trail

Stroll along the Neuse River Walk in Downtown Smithfield

(Smithfield, NC) - Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail is proud to partner with Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation for “Clues on the Neuse,” event, a celebration of Johnston County’s contribution to the NC Mountains-to-Sea Trail.  The event, scheduled for 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Sunday, October 10, will feature a scavenger hunt for all ages along the Neuse Riverwalk and Buffalo Creek Greenway.

Live entertainment will include the Ragged Company, Neuse River Ramblers and Cindy Rhodes, performing at the Neuse River Amphitheatre at Smithfield’s Town Commons, located at 200 South Front Street.

Participants will be given a list of twenty questions that can be answered by walking the trail and visiting various “campsites” along the Neuse Riverwalk and Buffalo Creek Greenway.   Participants with collect answers to all questions and they will be entered into a drawing for prizes including weekend getaways, a prize pack from River Town Outfitters, and Great Outdoor Provision Company gift cards.

“Clues on the Neuse will be a wonderful family-friendly event that combines entertainment, environmental education, and friendly competition,” said Chris Johnson, Executive Director of Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation.

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) is a linear state park that is being built from Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains to North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  Approximately 500 miles are complete.  One of the newest sections of the trail is in Smithfield, along Little Buffalo Creek and the Neuse River.  In approximately five years, a 100-mile segment of the MST will be complete from Orange County to Johnston County.  Governor Beverly Perdue has proclaimed October Mountains-to-Sea Trail month in North Carolina.  More than thirty events during the month will range from volunteer-guided hikes and paddling to trail construction days.

For more information about Clues on the Neuse or the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail, please contact Kate Dixon at (919) 698-9024 or visit www.ncmst.org

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Benson Museum of Local History Opens

Benson Museum of Local History Opens

The Benson Museum of Local History opens in new location on Main Street on May 28, 2010. After three years of fund raising, building renovations and exhibit design and installation, the museum will be open to the public Wednesday-Saturday approximately 4-6 hours a day.

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau has been involved with the board of the Benson Museum of Local History for the past year to help develop the new museum. Not only has the Visitors Bureau supported the project with tourism-related funding, giving the project $50,000 for capital improvements, but the bureau has helped to development the museum from the ground up.

The board held an opening reception and fundraiser on Thursday, May 27 with over 125 people attending and helping to raise the $50,000 needed to finish the back section of the building.  Future plans include having a local art gallery and presentation area for groups visiting the museum for special programs.

We are excited for the Town of Benson and the new museum, and now the Visitors Bureau will begin the marketing process to draw visitors and school groups to the facility. The museum is local in nature as far as the stories of the people of Benson goes, but they are unique in many ways.  Many may not know the internationally acclaimed composer Hunter Johnson was from Benson or that Jimmy Capps of Nashville's Grand Old Opry is from Benson. There is an abundance of farm related artifacts pertaining to the turpentine industry in Eastern NC, cotton-buying, tobacco farming and the tools and equipment local farm families used for work, caring for and feeding their families.

Also unique is Benson's thriving merchant business which built up around the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad as soon as it opened in October, 1886. The town may have been small, only 200 people in the early years, but it served residents and farm families for miles around, as it still does today.  Main Street Benson continues to offer hardware, appliances, car dealers, restaurants, bed & breakfast at an Historic home, the Preston Woodall B&B and many retail establishments remain and thrive...in this town of 3,600 people.

The museum is located at 104 W. Main Street in the Rose Woodall building that was originally a furniture and casket making store.  The board's decision to keep the character of the building with the tin ceilings and refinished hardwood floors supports the town's commitment to be authentic.

The exhibit rooms tell the story of the town and its founding family A. M. Benson, local merchants, military heritage from the Spanish American War to World War II, local doctors, farming, education, home life, Mule Days, the Benson Singing Convention and local artists like Carlie Tart, Jimmy Capps and Jim Thornton. Each exhibit theme has its own "room" that visitors can walk into and read about local history and see artifacts the board has collected over the past 23 years.

To be involved in tourism development for a community means more than advertising. It means that serving on area boards and working with events and festivals to broaden the scope of activities and improving the "visitor experience" is just as important.  If attractions, festivals, and tourism-related businesses succeed, especially in these difficult times, then the community or destination will ultimately succeed as well. Having quality attractions that interest the traveling public is vital to bringing more visitors to the county, therefore bringing more dollars to the county. Tourism is economic development and we have to try harder in rural communities to build our tourism product. We have to create our own vision of tourism, and then make it happen!

For more information on hours the Benson Museum of Local History is open, please contact the Town of Benson at 919-894-3553 and visit the town's website to see the latest news, www.townofbenson.com



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Beer Wine & Shine Trail

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


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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