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

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

beer wine and shine trail logo

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


Meeting Planners

meeting venue with presentation screen

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


Group Tour Operators

girl with camera in travel group

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


Hotel Packages

hotel bed and pillow with johnston county logo

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


hospitality heroes logo



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