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

Bursting with Blueberries

Bursting with Blueberries

Bursting with Blueberries

Blueberries are a versatile fruit. You can pop them into your mouth like popcorn, bake them into anything, simmer them down to a condiment, or even freeze them for an extra refreshing kick on those hot summer days. But did you know blueberries are also great for your health. Blueberries are low in fat and high in vitamin c, dietary fiber, and manganese (great for bone health). What's more, blueberries are currently being studied medically in relation to heart and brain health as well as insulin response and cancer research (source). There's some serious power in this petite fruit!

berry healthy

Pick Your Own Blueberries

The same pickin' principles that apply to strawberries must apply to blueberries. Concoctions made of blueberries picked with your own hands just taste better. That's a fact. It's farm to table freshness and personal satisfaction you just can't replicate any other way. Or maybe that's the homemade whipped cream on top we're tasting!

Below are two places in Johnston County where you can pick your own blueberries. Be sure to check out their websites to see what else is happening on the farm. Creekside Farm offers pick your own or packaged berries. In addition they offer blueberry honey, made by their bees, as well as
syrup, vinaigrette dressing, salsa, juice, cider, and jam. Smith's Nursery offers pick your own as well as fishing, farm animals, and other fun activities for the kids.

Creekside Farm, LLC
300 Pine Tree Rd. Selma, NC 27576
T 919-965-9969 | creeksidefarmberries.com

Smith's Nursery
443 Sanders Rd. Benson, NC 27504
T 919-934-1700 | smithsnurseryinc.com

Red, White, and Blueberry

blueberry recipes

It cannot be a coincidence that both strawberry and blueberry season fall so close to the Fourth of July. Can there be a more patriotic fruit pairing? Certainly not one that goes so berry well together in summer recipes. From cakes to crisps, pies to pastries, sauces to salsas, jams to juices... we've discovered that, in the south, there's no wrong way to eat a berry. Much like our blog on strawberries we have provided a unique compilation of blueberry recipes to be tried in your kitchen this weekend. As always we welcome comments and pictures of how your blueberry baking attempts turned out... delicious, we bet!

Lemon Blueberry Marble Cake

Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes

Blueberry Banana Muffins

Blueberry Smoothie

Blueberry Crisp

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Chick-Fil-A 3 Little Pigs Triathlon Attracting Out of State Visitors

Chick-Fil-A 3 Little Pigs Triathlon Attracting Out of State Visitors

Chick-Fil-A 3 Little Pigs Triathlon

The Chick-Fil-A 3 Little Pigs Triathlon will be held in Smithfield, North Carolina, on Saturday, June 13, 2015. The event will begin at 7:30 AM and include a 250-yard pool swim, 14-mile bike, and 3.1 mile run. 3 Little Pigs Triathlon is a USA Triathlon sanctioned event. USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon, and paratriathlon in the United States.
swim portion
The event will begin at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center (SRAC) at 600 Booker Dairy Road. The swim will take place at the SRAC; the bike course will be from the SRAC into rural Johnston County on a scenic but mostly flat course; and the run course is an out-and-back course around Smithfield’s community park, and down and back on the Buffalo Creek Greenway.
This is the sixth year the triathlon is being held. Chick-Fil-A of Smithfield is the title sponsor, with volunteer assistance coordinated by staff of the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center and the Rotary Club of Central Johnston County. Proceeds will benefit Friends of the Park and the Rotary Club of Central Johnston County.

“We are excited about the response we’ve received about the 3 Little Pigs Triathlon,” said Martin Tetreault, a committee member for the event. “We’ve had great participation each year that we’ve held the triathlon, and everyone seems to have a great time. Last year we raised over $15,000. Those funds go directly back into the community through Friends of the Park and the Rotary Club of Central Johnston County. It’s a great time for the participants and their families.”

Family activities will also be available for those coming to support instead of run. There will be a SRAC splash pool, a misting tent, face painting, and the playground at the finish line. So far this year's participants have signed up from locations like Charlotte, Wilmington, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Virginia. Athletes also range in age from 12 to over 70.  There is still time to be a participant yourself. Registration information is below.  
splash park
Registration Information
 - Online: https://fsseries.com/3-little-pigs-sprint-triathlon
 - Onsite registration may be available if the event is not full.
 - Participants receive a t-shirt and a Chick-Fil-A sandwich as part of the event.
Good Luck!

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A Soldier's Walk Home

A Soldier's Walk Home

A Soldier's Walk Home

In 1865, as the Civil War came to a close, Union and Confederate soldiers were faced with the reality of returning home. Many were simply released from service in the area where their unit had last been stationed. And others, like Washington Duke, a Confederate sailor, were prisoners released by the Union Army. All facing the possibility of getting home the only way available to them, walking.

The Journey Back

The Civil War was a brother’s war that divided families and communities, and once over still left behind the seemingly impossible task of healing a nation. Historian and re-enactor Philip Brown will make the walk from New Bern to Durham as Duke did then, but not as Washington Duke. According to Brown, he will be representing all soldiers returning home from any war. He will make the 166-mile journey on foot along the back roads of rural NC in Civil War era clothing and shoes.   

Brown loves re-enacting and history, and is interested in how people interact with history. He completed a master’s degree in Public History at UNG-Greensboro in April, and earned a B.A. degree from UNC-Chapel Hill in Peace, War, and Defense and American History. Soon after the 13-day walk, the Charlotte native will start working at Gettysburg National Military Park in late May.

According to Philip, "this walk takes a portion of North Carolina's history and spreads it across a large area of the state. The event is also designed to get people interested and engaged with history.  We are working with a subject and time period in North Carolina that has deep connections to things that we deal with today, especially the experience of civilians and soldiers in the aftermath of military conflicts."

The Schedule of Walking and Events

Listed below is the route and schedule that Philip will be following. He makes his way through Johnston County for a total of 5 days with various activities to mark the occasion of his journey and pay homage to the profound association that Johnston County has to the events of the Civil War.

A Soldier's Walk Home Map
May 10        New Bern, 3 p.m. Ceremonial opening at Academy Museum
May 11        New Bern, 9 a.m. Walk begins from Union Point
                  Cove City, 6 p.m. Ceremonies at Cove City Public Library
May 12        Kinston, 5 p.m. Federal check point activity, Harriet’s Chapel on Battlefield Site
                  Kinston, 7 p.m.  Reception with veteran’s and other guests - closed
May 13        Kinston, 8:30 a.m. Breakfast at CSS Neuse with officials - closed
                  Kinston, 10 a.m. Visit with 7th and 8th grade students at Arendall Parrot Academy
                  Kinston, 1 p.m. Visit with 4th grade students at Contentnea School
                  Kinston, 2:15 p.m. Tour of CSS Neuse II
                  Kinston, 2:45 p.m. Visit Military Walk of Honor
                  Kinston, 3:15 p.m. Visit Maplewood Cemetery-Mass Confederate Burial Site
                  Kinston, 4 p.m.  Visit Memorial Site of the Kinston Battlefield
                  Kinston, 7 p.m.  Dinner at Olivia’s – ticketed event for public
May 14        Seven Springs, 5 p.m. Cliffs of the Neuse State Park camping
May 15        Goldsboro, 2 p.m.  Goldsboro Bridge Battlefield camping
May 16        Princeton, 4 p.m. Wreath-laying at Veteran’s Memorial
May 17        Smithfield, 6 p.m.  Reception/Tour of Confederate Monument-Wreath-laying
May 18        Clayton, 4 p.m. Arrive at Smith-Compton House. 6 p.m. Veteran’s Ceremony
                  Clayton, 7 p.m.  Town Square program
May 19        Clayton, 8:30 a.m. Wreath placement at Clayton Yellow Jackets Monument
                  (veteran’s burial site)
May 19        Raleigh, 7 p.m. UDC hosted dinner (closed)
May 20        Raleigh, 11 a.m. Brown, re-enactors, including USCT, meet with school groups
May 21        Morrisville, 3:30 p.m. After School program. 6:30 p.m. Ceremonies, Ernie
                  Dollar speaks
May 22        Durham 6 p.m. Ceremony with dignitaries at American Tobacco Campus
May 23        Durham, 11 a.m. Arrive at Duke Homestead for Bullfest Program. Welcome
                  home, music, dance lessons, crafts

Feel free to attend any of the wreath-laying events you see listed on the schedule as they are open to the public. Wreath-laying ceremonies are happening in Princeton, Smithfield, and Clayton; please note that times listed in the schedule may vary slightly due to Philip's walking time each day. In addition, there will be a program at the Clayton Town Square on the evening of May 18th. The program includes a welcome speech by the mayor, a few appropriate musical performances, and even a speech from Philip himself.

For additional information, please call (919) 477-5498 or visit A Soldier’s Walk Home.

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A Flourishing Legacy - Powell's Gardens to Close After This Year

A Flourishing Legacy - Powell's Gardens to Close After This Year

 A Flourishing Legacy - Powell's Gardens to Close After This Year

For those that live in Princeton, NC and for those who understand the patient dedication of horticulture, Powell's Gardens off Hwy 70 has always been a place known for tranquility and excellence. For over 50 years Loleta Powell has grown and sold only the best blooms of irises, lilies, and hostas. The Johnston County Visitors Bureau recently discovered that this will be the last year Powell's Gardens will be open. And so, I recently sat down with Loleta to discuss her history, her love of gardening, and to capture the legacy of this wonderful and nurturing woman.

The Early Year's - A Budding Love for Nature

Loleta Powell started gardening at age 5. She admits that it could have been before that, but 5 is her earliest recollection of having her own little garden. Both her grandmother and her parents were gardeners and they taught and encouraged her to plant her own seeds. This early experience with nature led to a lifetime of cultivation.Meredith Hues Iris

Loleta graduated from Meredith College in 1941, "back when the building were wood and not brick", she jokes. It is easy to tell from speaking with her that she maintains a deep love for her alma mater. She began her collegiate career as a Home Economics major but soon found it to her disliking, "you cook something and there it is, and you eat it, and it's gone". Searching for a way to channel her creativity into something more permanent she eventually graduated with a degree in English.

She was married in 1945 and when her husband returned from the service they bought a house together. Since then she has moved her home and her garden twice, but has never not been surrounded by flowers. She taught English in the public school system for 12 years and maintained her garden as a hobby until a friend urged her to enter a flower show. At that time she decided to leave the school system and garden full-time. And so, Powell Gardens has existed for over 50 years and in its current location is around 3 acres.

Not just a graduate, Loleta is also tied to Meredith as the creator of the college's official flower, shown in the picture to the right. The Meredith College flower is an iris called a Meredith Hues and is planted in multiple locations on campus including the fountain near the Cate Center and near the Alumnae House. Loleta cross bred different iris and ended up with an iris that had white standards and red falls, the colors of the college. "Standards" is the term for the petals of an iris that stand up and "falls" is the term for the petals that bend down. The iris is her favorite of all flowers.

Growing a Garden and a Business

Loleta says that the thing she loves most about gardening is the fragrance, being able to walk through the garden or sniff the breeze and smell what is blooming. She also loves giving things what they need and watching them prosper. She mentioned how much she enjoyed teaching too. But then that makes sense, for what else is teaching but to nurture a group of children and to cultivate their knowledge so that they can grow and achieve their potential.

Powell Gardens also has the biggest collection of hostas on the east coast and Loleta's interest in them began when she read about them in a gardening book. Hostas thrive in shade and so in order to grow hers she first had to grow trees to create enough shade for them to flourish in. She became a member of the American Hosta Society. Loleta said that the best piece of advice she can give people interested in gardening is to be willing to learn all you can about the plants you are going to grow, read and stay informed, and most importantly remain in contact with other people who grow those plants.

yellow iris

When asked what sort of plant is the most challenging to grow she thought for a moment and replied, "annuals, like geraniums, even though they are popular. I have no use for them. You put all that energy into growing something that you only get to see once and it's gone." She prefers perennials because they come back year after year. She also grows vegetables and fruits. Her favorites are corn and watermelon.

The Best Part of Gardening

She remains as active as she possibly can and all of her children help her in the garden. She said, "my life is a book of things I used to do and still want to do, but can't anymore." She still tries and she proudly claimed that, "there's not a lazy bone in my body". It was certainly a humbling experience to sit outside in the warm sunshine and enjoy the spring breeze with her, surrounded by her life's work. Despite her inability to see or hear very well in her advanced age she could point with precision to each area of the garden and tell me about everything in bloom. It is easy to tell that she takes great pride in her work, and so she should. Everything I see in the garden seems to be greener, or brighter, or more fragrant than seems possible. Or maybe that is just because when you speak with Loleta you can see the garden through the eyes of someone who has tended it with joy every day of her life.

"The best part of gardening, "she said, "is seeing things grow into what they are intended to be."




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Endless Yard Sale Show Comes to Hwy 301

Endless Yard Sale Show Comes to Hwy 301

Endless Yard Sale Show Comes to Hwy 301

We swear that when we named our event the 301 Endless Yard Sale we did not know there was an amazing  television show dedicated to bringing yard sale loving contestants to some of the nation's biggest and best yard sales. Or that the show was called Endless Yard Sale. But, serendipity is strange like that, and Endless Yard Sale will be coming to, well, our 301 Endless Yard Sale, June 19-20, 2015.

What does that mean for you as a local or a visitor, a vendor or a buyer? It means you just might have a chance to be on TV... the Great American Country channel to be exact. We have packed some great information into this blog, including who to contact if you want to be a contestant and some of the possible items the show is looking to buy on their 301 adventure. If you're going to be at the 301 Endless Yard Sale this year and you are an antique collector then we suggest you bring your "A" game!  

We've also included a helpful map of Hwy 301 as it goes through 100 miles of treasure hunting from Roanoke Rapids to Dunn. The map starts at the most northern vendor and ends at the most southern vendor (so far). It also maps each vendor area we currently know about and it will be updated as we know more information.

Do You Live for Yard Sales? Would You Like to Be on TV?

Do you have an eye for antiques and vintage treasures? Can you bargain and deal like a pro? You could be the next Endless Yard Sale winner! Our House Media is currently casting Picking Teams for Great American County's competition series Endless Yard Sale. If you're interested in being on the show then they want to hear from you. Contact Lauren Hugh at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 416-551-1032 ext. 260.

Do You Have Interesting and Unusual Yard Sale Items?

Endless Yard Sale is also looking for interesting and unusual antiques and collectibles. Below is a list of some of the things they are looking for.

- Old Toys: Cast Iron, Tin Windup
- Old Signs
- Old Neon Signs
- Military Items
- Pedal Cars
- Antique Guns
- Coin-Operated Machines
- Folk Art
- Motorcycles
- Juke Boxes
- Old Movie Posters
- Cast Iron
- Early Furniture
- Pottery
- Radios: Transistors/Tabletop
- Bicycles
- Advertising Items
- Pottery
- Western/ Equestrian Gear
- Taxidermy
- Vending Machines: Coke, Candy, Gumball
- Musical Instruments
- Sports Collectibles
- 60’s, 70’s & 80’s TV Merchandise
- Vintage Diner Items

- Duck Decoys
- Pinball Machines
- Telephones
- Circus & Carnival Memorabilia
- Election Memorabilia
- Musical Instruments
- Civil War Antiques
- NASA Memorabilia
- Rugs
- Advertising Items
- Cookie Jars
- Antique Casino/ Gaming Equipment
- Antique Clocks
- Taxidermy Animals
- Early Board Games
- Old Photographs - Crocks
- Hawaiian/ Tiki Collectibles
- Old Bar Equipment
- Oil Paintings
- Gas Pumps
- Police Officer Collectibles
- Old Dolls
- Firefighter Collectibles
- Wood Carvings
- Soda Fountain Dispensers


















Due North or Due South? It's Up to You.

As we mentioned at the top, this map includes each vendor area we currently know about and it will be updated as more information comes in. However, keep in mind that we cannot know every participating house and business. Therefore, this map and the locations are meant as a guide and not a definitive listing of what you'll find along the 301 Endless Yard Sale route.

301 Endless Yard Sale Map
For up-to-date information visit the website, www.301endlessyardsale.com, and follow us on Facebook.




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Tis the Season... for Strawberries

Tis the Season... for Strawberries

Tis the Season... for Strawberries

There is a festive time of year when a southerner can dig out the ole family recipes, stock up on ingredients of red and green, and roll up their sleeves in the kitchen. No, it's not Christmas! It's strawberry season!

The Greater Cleveland Area Strawberry Festival is this Saturday, April 25th from 9am to 4pm and we hope you all will make time to join in the festivities! There will be Games, Entertainment, Vendors, Arts and Crafts, Pony Rides, Camel Rides, and Food. It's fun for the whole family and you can find out more by visiting the festival's Facebook page here.

Strawberry Pickin' Fun for the Family

A good southern knows the value of hard work and that doesn't start in the kitchen. It starts in the field, where you pick the strawberries you'll later whip into delicious dishes. Dishes that will certainly taste even better after the experience of strolling rows of lush green strawberry-laden plants. With the warm sun on your skin you'll pick only the best berries for your kitchen, like the most discerning of professional chefs. Below we have provided the information of two places in Johnston County where you can go pick your own strawberries.

Smith's Nursery
443 Sanders Rd. Benson, NC 27504
T 919-934-1700 | smithsnurseryinc.com

Beasley's Berries
428 Peele Rd. Clayton, NC 27520

Enjoy Your Strawberries Sweet or Spicy

You've no doubt noticed the berry, berry strawberriness of our Facebook posts this week. Just in case you lost those family recipes mentioned at the top, we wanted to provide you with some fun and fruity recipes. From a crisp, to a poptart, to donuts, to BBQ sauce, we think we did a pretty great job picking simple and unique ideas. If you missed them on social media, click the links below for these recipes and a ton of others. And if you feel so inclined, we'd love it berry much if you'd share pictures of your strawberry concoctions on our Facebook page here.

Krispy Kreme Strawberry Shortcake

Glazed Donut Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

Strawberry Crisp

Strawberry Nutella Poptarts

strawberry nutella poptarts

Roasted Strawberry BBQ Sauce




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A JohnsTON of Music this Summer

A JohnsTON of Music this Summer


A JohnsTON of Music this SummerLife is Grand


It's almost time for the lazy days of summer. The southern evening heat and the dance of fireflies makes you want to park it on a lawn chair somewhere and put a cool drink in your hand. And even if you can't forsake the daily grind of the week day for a truly lazy summer experience, you can at least seek every weekend opportunity to sit back, relax, and enjoy the music. The communities in Johnston County have lined-up summer entertainment so good and plentiful you'll have to get up and dance. Whether you're a permanent resident or a passer-through looking for something to do, check out the comprehensive list below and mark these dates on your calendar. Beach music, country, and rock-n-roll. Come on out ya'll and watch these bands crank it up!



When and Where to Find the Music

The Farm - Selma
May 30 - Rodney Atkins
Sept. 12 - 4th Annual Farm Fest - Line up TBA

Take a Back Road - Rodney Atkins

Downtown Smithfield Friday Night Concert
Entertainment TBA
May 15, June 19, Sept. 18

Clayton Town Square Concert Series
May 21 - Jack the Radio
June 18 - Southern Grace
July 16 - Coco Loco Party Band
August 20 - Idlewild South
Sept 17 - Walrus

Jessica by Idlewild South


Sundown in Benson

Concerts at the Crossroads - Flower's Plantation
May 10 - The Tams
Sept. 13 - Jim Quick and the Coastline Band

Sundown in Benson
May 14 - Too Much Sylvia
June 11 - The Band of Oz
July 9 - The Attractions
Aug. 3 - Jim Quick and the Coastline Band

Third Thursday Concerts - Four Oaks
June 18 - Bethesda Bluegrass Band
Sept. 17 - Jonathan Parker and the Bel-Airs and Carolina Traditional Bluegrass Band



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Shine-ing a Light on the Legacy of Broadslab

Shine-ing a Light on the Legacy of Broadslab

It has paid for college educations, built some churches, won some elections, and has probably won wars," Broadslab owner and Master Distiller Jeremy Norris speaks to the deep and lasting effects that moonshine, and moonshine profit has had in southern communities like Broadslab, located just four miles east of Benson.

Shine-ing a Light on the Legacy of Broadslab

Over the course of Broadslab Distillery's three year history, including ABC store distribution, an appearance in an episode of A Chef's Life, and now the opening of an on-site tasting room, both locals and visitors far and wide have discovered its incredible story.  But, just a few encounters with Jeremy and you'll come to realize that he has more stories than you have time.  Each one rich with heritage, ripe with humor and the love of farm and family, flavorful and potent like the shine running out of the still.

Johnston County's legacy as the "Moonshine Capital"

Jeremy would love to know if Johnston County is the Moonshine Capital of North Carolina -- he even did some research trying to document the number of "busts" and arrests in the county.  He thinks it would be a great project for someone with lots of time -- he was overwhelmed with the numbers.  The competition seems to be another county west of here in the foothills....name being withheld as not to start a feud. JoCo Moonshine Bust

Today, there are around 23 distilleries in the state, and with legislation pending that will allow distilleries to sell on site, one bottle per visitor, per year, he expects more to open.  Jeremy is what we would dub the "real deal", with a back story about growing up in a family of moonshiners in a community known for the trade. Unlike some distilleries in the state using moonshine stories as a marketing ploy, Jeremy is building a brand whose story has honest origins.

How Jeremy's love for the family farm is now the heart of his business.  

The Broadslab recipes are the embodiment of a five generation legacy which were passed down by the great-great grandfathers on both sides of Jeremy’s family. One of them, William “Bill” McLamb, was active in the dawn of the moonshine trade and distilled smooth, sipping whiskey long before prohibition. But it was Jeremy’s grandfather, Leonard A. Wood, who eventually passed on the family recipe. Jeremy was raised by his grandfather, who operated a produce stand there at the house, which is now the tasting room.

Once moonshine became legal in NC, Jeremy saw the opportunity for his family to turn a lawless legacy into a labor of love operation. His grandfather Leonard finally agreed to share his knowledge, recipes, and oral shine history. If Jeremy could make an honest business of shining, Leonard didn't see anything wrong with that. And so they toiled together, perfecting the process and arguing between decades of tradition and modern techniques.

As Jeremy’s mentor and personal consultant, Leonard was integral in building the Broadslab still, but passed away before the opening. Since then, Jeremy has purchased land from his family to own the farm his grandfather loved so much.  Jeremy has roots in the land like many other Johnston County farmers. The distillery sits in the footprint of many of his stills on the family farm outside Benson, NC. Broadslab's story is both personal and endearing -- and it's a story visitors will hear when getting the tour and enjoying the tastings.  We could sit and listen to Jeremy for hours!

Broadslab Model-T

About the products -- get a taste!

As far as Jeremy knows, he is the only distillery in the state that is growing the grain, harvesting and processing it, and making it all with natural ingredients. If you're standing in the Broadslab tasting room, you're standing on the land that the corn in your whiskey was grown on. There will be no additives, artificial ingredients, or syrups in Broadslab products.  Some are even considered organic for those foodies that seek out that designation. But, there are some other important "organic" ingredients to Broadslab Distillery's product that make it truly one of a kind. The hand-crafted love that goes into every step in the process is one ingredient. From "dirt to bottle", Jeremy is the engine behind the process putting that drink in your hand.

Jeremy's grandfather told him there are two kinds of shine, the shine you sell and the shine you drink.  Jeremy is making the shine you drink.  He has altered the methods his grandfather used to pour off the harsh chemicals that are in front of the "drinking shine", and he cuts off the still before the bitter taste at the bottom affects the product.  This "sweet spot" so to speak is the fine product Jeremy is producing. Jeremy has remarked more than once that his grandfather would get upset that Jeremy was "wasting" a portion of the product in order to craft a better taste. While Jeremy understood the practicality behind his grandfather's idea, he wanted his product to be as smooth as possible.

Jeremy put the word "shine" on his bottles and not moonshine -- he finds people won't give the product a chance.  Once they try it, they remark, "that's a well-rounded spirit, not a moonshine."  

He makes a Reserve Shine - aged whiskey in oak barrels, made from NC American Oak stays from a local saw mill.  He doesn't add coloring like other brands...again, the quality of the product speaks the loudest. There's Carolina Coast Rum, the first product on the shelve for Broadslab - Jeremy compares it to "Island Rum", even though he hasn't had the pleasure of tasting Island Rum. Apple Shine is his newest product and he thinks it will be a big seller because, "ladies like it a lot".  It is 50% proof and has real juices, spices, and a little cane sugar for sweetness.  

The hand-crafted glass of Broadslab shine or rum you sip on in the tasting room doesn't just have your basic white lightning ingredients in it. Moonshine has a legacy all on its own....it has the weight of a war between the lawful and the lawless, the sense of secrecy as hands toiled to distill in the dead of night, the smell of wild southern nights, gun smoke, and pure, grain alcohol...the taste of sizzling lightning tempered by time and passion into a smooth and robust drink.  Can't you just taste the heritage in every sip!

Where to find Broadslab products

Broadslab products are located in local ABC stores in 60-70 counties in North Carolina, and in a tri-state area including South Carolina and Georgia.  Some of the local restaurants and bars featuring Broadslab are Moonrunner's in Garner and Chef and the Farmer in Kinston.  

Although it is fine sipping shine -- we think his products fit very nicely in any of your favorite drink recipes.  Moonshine Margaritas, Mulled Strawberry Mojito with sugar rim, and the one he mixed up for us...Lemonade Shine. See the picture below for the recipe and watch the video to see Jeremy mix one up in the tasting room. He suggests you can replace the shine with the spiced rum...some folks like it better!


Visit Broadslab Distillery for the shine and you certainly won't be disappointed.  But stick around for the stories and you'll find yourself perched on the bar stool long after the shot glass in your hand runs dry.

The tasting room is open on Thursdays through Saturdays, starting at 12N. Guests get a tour, tasting, and shot glass for $12.00. Find out more on the website -- www.broadslabdistillery.com 

Broadslab Lemonade       b2ap3_thumbnail_Strawberry-Mojito.png















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Howell Woods to Hold Seventh Annual Woodstock

Howell Woods to Hold Seventh Annual Woodstock

Howell Woods to Hold Seventh Annual Woodstock

As the weather grows slowly, oh so slowly, warmer we often look for activities to get the entire family outside after a long winter in doors. Sunshine, fresh air, open spaces, activities, and learning opportunities are all available at the seventh annual Howell Woodstock event on Saturday, April 18th.

Howell WoodstockHowell Woodstock offers many free, fun activities for the family from 1 until 8 p.m., including fishing, hayrides, environmental educational programs, star gazing, nature walks, live music, and a bonfire with s ’mores. Kids can enjoy recreational activities like a rock climbing wall and inflatables with local food and drink vendors on hand throughout the day.

“This year marks our seventh Woodstock event, and we are excited to once again be offering this family-fun day out at Howell Woods,” says Jordan Astoske, Director. “This is such a beautiful time of year on the Howell Woods property, and we hope folks will come out and bring their families and have a great time with us.” 

Visitors to the area the weekend of the 18th are encouraged to attend. You can even bring a fishing pole and tent as event attendees are invited to fish and camp for free. Whether you're looking for a day trip opportunity or a family camping excursion, put Howell Woodstock on your calendar.  

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. Programs, activities, and other recreation experiences are offered at Howell Woods at other times of the year during spring, summer, and fall. Continue to check their website below for additional information regarding everything they have to offer both locals and visitors to Johnston County.

Howell Woodstock will be held rain or shine. For more information about the event and Howell Woods, please call (919) 938-0115 or visit www.johnstoncc.edu/howellwoods.

              Howell Woodstock






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New Staff Members at the Bureau

With every season there comes change, and so it is at the Johnston County Visitors Bureau.  We said goodbye to two staff members recently as their career paths took them on to new adventures.  We wish them much success!

After the months of posting job openings, interviews, and second interviews, the JCVB has hired two outstanding individuals to join our team.  Here's just a snapshot of our new employees and we encourage our tourism industry community to get to know them as they both have critical roles in the marketing efforts for Johnston County. 

Ashby BrameAshby Brame is a Johnston County native, who like many, have gone off to college, worked a few years elsewhere and decided that there is no place better than home.  Ashby's title is Marketing/PR Manager and she will handle all aspects of advertising placement, development of marketing strategies, BLOG writing, and social media campaigns.  Ashby has a Masters of Business Administration, Marketing from East Carolina University, and BS in Management, Marketing from the University of North Carolina at Asheville.  She has worked for The Biltmore Estate for Group Sales, and most recently as the Sales and Marketing Manager for Ruth's Chris Steak House in Asheville.




Sarah CampbellSarah Campbell, also is well-known in the Smithfield community, and has worked for one of our past board members, Hank Daniels, owner of Sleep Inn and Super 8 for more than four years in all areas of the hotel.  She also has experience working retail at Carolina Premium Outlets and as a lifeguard at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center. She has a BS in Nursing from the University of NC at Wilmington, however, she has found her passion in the hospitality industry in particular with promoting the county to visitors.  Sarah's title is Sports and Leisure Sales Manager, and she will work on attracting groups to the county, and promotion and development of leisure packages for shopping, trails, and golfing.  In addition to sales, she will maintain the bureau's database and provide services to groups coming to the county.




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150th anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville draws 65,000

150th anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville draws 65,000

The 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville took place on Saturday and Sunday March 21st and 22nd, 2015. Saturday’s scenario was a reenactment of the “Fight for the Morris Farm,” while Sunday’s reenactment was of “the Last Grand Charge of the Army of Tennessee and Morgan’s Stand.” Besides the battle reenactments, guests enjoyed speeches by experts on Civil War history, camp cooking demonstrations, domestic demonstrations, medical displays and Harper House tours. More than 65,000 people participated in this year’s Sesquicentennial event, including 2,500 reenactors.


Confederate reenactors at their campsite.




Some of the crowd, being addressed by General Sherman


Some planned well for the day, bringing picnics and chairs.


History of the Site

The Battle of Bentonville was the largest Civil War battle in the state of North Carolina. General Joseph E. Johnston’s small Confederate army attacked one half of Major General William T. Sherman’s Union army as it marched north from Georgia on March 19, 1865. The 20,000 Confederate soldiers and almost 60,000 Union soldiers battled fiercely over three days. The Bentonville battle was the last offensive by a Confederate army in open territory during the war. The Confederates chose the tiny village of Bentonville to launch their attack on the Union army because it was the only crossroads in eastern North Carolina south of Goldsboro where the Confederates could concentrate their scattered armies. The Confederates hoped to defeat Sherman before Union reinforcements could arrive from Goldsboro.


Battle-weary Confederate Reenactors

The Union army had divided into two “wings” to enable a quicker march to Goldsboro. This split also gave the Confederate soldiers better odds since they only had to face half the Union soldiers at a time. The Confederate army battled hard, but outnumbered, couldn’t conquer the left wing of Sherman’s army. They retreated to attack the right wing on its arrival. They fought strong on March 20th, but when Mower’s Union reinforcements arrived on March 21st, the Confederates retreated across Mill Creek. Sherman let them go and continued to Goldsboro. 


Union troops prepare cannons for battle

One month later, Johnston surrendered his army to Sherman at Bennett Place in Durham on April 26, 1865. The first monument to the battle was not placed at Bentonville until 1895, and the second in 1924. Besides these two markers, the battlefield virtually went without interpretation until the 1950s.

Large Civil War reenactments such as this one began in 1990. Because of the tremendous amount of planning and infrastructure required to undertake these huge events, including the lengthy preparations made by Confederate and Union reenactors, they only take place every five years. Other years, a living history program takes place every March to further awareness and promote the history of Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site, as well as to raise funds to maintain and enhance the site.

About our sponsors

The reenactment is sponsored by the Friends of Bentonville Battlefield, Inc. an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose purpose is to support the preservation and interpretation of Bentonville Battlefield, North Carolina State Historic Sites, and the Johnston County Visitors Bureau. The event is part of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources’ commemoration of the Civil War’s sesquicentennial anniversary. Please visit www.nccivilwar150.com for more information about North Carolina’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.




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From Haunted Hay Rides to Vineyard Tours - The Past and Future of Agritourism in JoCo

From Haunted Hay Rides to Vineyard Tours - The Past and Future of Agritourism in JoCo

According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, "Agritourism is activity that incorporates tourism and agriculture by bringing individuals to farms, ranches, vineyards, and other agricultural enterprises.  Agritourism helps to educate the public and often generates income for farmers and agriculturalists.  There are many types of agritourism enterprises, including pick-your-own farms, agriculture museums, corn mazes, hay rides, winery tours, barnyard animals, etc."

Due to Johnston County's rich heritage associated with the land, this may not be the first time you have heard of or experienced agritourism. Many land owners who open their farms, ranches, and vineyards to the public do so in the name of education. With so much of the media dictating what we think we know about our food, agritourism allows farmers the opportunity to be more transparent about how our food and beverages are produced - from seed to store and from farm to table. Not to mention how fun agritourism is - picking your own blueberries, selecting a pumpkin to carve, tasting wine while exploring the vineyard the grapes were grown in, experiencing a southern sunset over a corn field.

But for tourists and locals like you, yes you, to enjoy picking fresh strawberries straight from the field, haunted hay rides, and adventurous corn mazes, farmers must first learn how to go about opening their land to you. Because of this need for education, Johnston County has previously offered workshops on agritourism with the hope of assisting local farmers who may be seeking ways to utilize their land and equipment to serve tourists. Thanks to these previous agritourism classes, many of which took place 10 years ago, right here in Johnston County there exists all types of agritourism options for visitors and locals. Families who owned farms like the Boyette's, the Thompsons, and the Browns utilized knowledge gained from attending the classes to set the foundation for agritourism in the county.

On that foundation exists old and new local businesses that have only grown with the consumer demand for farm to table experiences. Current trends show increased interest in agritourism surrounding the beer and wine market. Not just nationally, but right here in Johnston County. Wehave 4 wineries, 2 breweries, and 1 moonshine distillery where visitors can learn about the local ingredients that go into the beverages they get to enjoy in the tasting rooms.

One local farmer, Caroline Hines, stated both the benefits and obstacles that agricultural enterprises face when entering into and remaining profitable in agritourism. She has a family-owned farm outside of Micro called Hines Farm. They grow tobacco mostly and have not expanded into agritourism, but Hines is one example of the farmers that exist in the newest generation of agricultural professionals considering the opportunities and particulars involved in agritourism. According to Hines one of the most important aspects, and often the most baffling to farmers, is marketing and branding. She continued, "agritourism takes people visiting your operation and that takes branding your farm as a place people want to go. With most conventional farms you have a product and you sell it and that's it. You don't have to market your crops."

Project Skill-UP 2015 hopes to provide the opportunity for a new generation of local farmers to train for agritourism. The program hopes to provide the most current information on all aspects of agritourism for the counties farmers, vintners, brewers, and distillers. The classes are made possible by the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, Cooperative Extension, and the JCC Small Business Center.

The project will consist of 3 free seminars and a tour of local successful agritourism businesses:

  • March 24th - Agritourism: Then and Now - 7:00 PM

  • April 28th - Farm to Table - 7:00 PM

  • September 22nd - Agritourism Trails and Marketing - 7:00 PM

  • October 27th - Agri-Business Tour - Time TBD

Training topics include defining agritourism, how to be profitable, and how to market an agritourism venture. In addition, the seminars will cover the logistics involved in operation including insurance and preparing a farm for visitors. All events are free (with the exception of the tour lunch charge) thanks to a grant from the NC Tobacco Fund Commission and will be held in the Lampe Meeting Room, N Third St, Smithfield. To register, contact Rose Andrews at 919-209-2594 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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NC Beer Month Comes to JoCo Again

NC Beer Month Comes to JoCo Again

NC Beer Month Comes to JoCo

NC Beer Month is back this year, its third annual celebration, and highlighting the best craft beer in the state. Johnston County is not immune to the evolutionary trend of craft beer brewing; there are two locally owned and operated breweries right here in our back yard and they are gearing up for NC Beer Month. But, it's not just the breweries themselves getting ready to celebrate beer. Bottle shops, bars, and restaurants all over the county are joining in on the fun too. Ready, Set, Brew.

If you haven't already tried Double Barley Brewing or Deep River Brewing then run, don't walk, to their amazing facilities, complete with tasting rooms, in Smithfield and Clayton respectively. In honor of NC Beer Month both breweries are planning not only specially brewed beers just for the occasion but also a full schedule of events, beer dinners and release parties. But tap takeovers and beer dinners aren't possible without area partners assisting the breweries and keeping both Double Barley and Deep River on tap at establishments within the county and beyond. Because Clayton and Smithfield are so close to the Raleigh area, you can think of both breweries as Raleigh breweries. You can easily find them on tap at many of your favorite Raleigh hot-spots and hangouts.

Things to Brew... We Mean, Do

In April Deep River will be revealing three new beers - Carpetbagger Double IPA (a collaboration with Trophy Brewing), Collaboration Without Representation Milk Stout (a collaboration with Bottle Revolution), and Bitter Unicorn Tears India Pale Lager. Each of these beers will involve a release party at the Brewery with more details to come. In addition, the brewery will be celebrating 2 years with a much over-sue ribbon cutting ceremony. A beer dinner with the Flip Side Cafe is also in the works with details to come.

•    April 2nd - Official Ribbon Cutting at the brewery
•    April 2nd - 5th, 2015 - Two Year Anniversary Celebration at the brewery


Double Barley is also ready for NC Beer Month with multiple events at the brewery and beyond.  Double Barley will be releasing a new beer called Sexy Rexy. It is a red rye and the release party at the brewery will include live beach music and food specials. In addition, throughout the month of April there will be a tap takeover in the Double Barley taproom at the brewery highlighting a different NC craft beer every week. Double Barley will be hosting a fund raising event for KAM LIFE Village, giving adults with Autism life with purpose. It will include a silent auction, live music with Erin Nenni, and a pint glass with purchase.

•    April 2nd - Tap Takeover at the Cleveland Draft House, Clayton
•    April 3rd - Sexy Rexy Release Party at the brewery
•    April 8th - Beer Dinner, 7:00 PM at the brewery - ticketed
•    April 10th - from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM Fund Raiser for KAM LIFE Village
•    April 16th - Bottle Share focusing on NC beer at the brewery


Beer Hashtags and More

As we spring forward into warmer weather, April is the perfect month to get out into the county to celebrate not only beer, but the local, hardworking businesses responsible for that delicious cold drink in your hand. For more information regarding the listed events and contact information please visit the Deep River Events page here or the Double Barley Events page here. For more information regarding state-wide events for NC Beer Month please visit the website here. For those social media savvy beer-enthusiast follow all the latest, with the Twitter hashtag #NCBeerMonth or by subscribing to this helpful Twitter List here.


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Broadslab Distillery Opens Tasting Room March 19

Broadslab Distillery Opens Tasting Room March 19

Experience the spirit of the south with moonshine from Broadslab Distillery at the new tasting room opening March 19.  Jeremy Norris, Broadslab owner and master distiller, uses a family-inspired shine recipe passed down over five generations. Visitors  can now take tours of the distillery and get "shine" samples in the tasting room.  Fee for the tour is $12.00 per person, and the gift shop on site offers Broadslab merchandise.

Broadslab VisitorsOn March 19, the Tasting Room Grand Opening will run from 12-6pm, and continue on Friday and Saturday for the same hours.  Visitors will learn about Jeremy's process which involves locally grown and milled corn and hand-made oak barrels crafted by Jeremy himself and used to age the Broadslab Legacy product to perfection.  Broadslab also produces a white rum, a spiced rum, and traditional moonshine which is the "real deal".

"Jeremy has converted his grandfather's home into a grand tasting room, just a short ride from the distillery, and its location four miles from Benson, I-95 at exit 79, will be very convenient for travelers," stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, President, Johnston County Visitors Bureau. "We wish him all the success in the world, and Broadslab will now become a stop along the Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail in the county."

Visitors will enjoy meeting this master distiller who has preserved the legacy of this region, long known for the quality and quantity of home-brewed whiskey.   Jeremy learned his craft from his grandfather and offers a true "farm to the table" product, even growing corn used at the distillery on the family farm.  Broadslab is available for sale in ABC stores in North Carolina and is distributed in four states.  Jeremy has appeared on the Chef and the Farmer television series and has been featured in several promotions with the Johnston County Visitors Bureau and media events with Visit NC.

Broadslab is a member of the North Carolina Distillers Association and is a part of the North Carolina Distillery Trail. The tasting room is located just a few miles from I-95, at 4870 NC HWY 50 South, Benson, NC and will have regular hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 12-6pm. Benson is very convenient to the Triangle area, so if you're looking for things to do in Raleigh, check-out Broadslab. For more information call (919) 291-0691 or visit the website, www.broadslabdistillery.com.


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Heritage Center To Unveil Civil War Exhibit

Heritage Center To Unveil Civil War Exhibit

An exhibit entitled, "American vs. American: Our Most Cruel War,” will open in the Holding-Richardson Exhibit Hall of the Johnston County Heritage Center on Saturday, March 7, at 2 pm.

As we prepared for the Bentonville 150th Event we found there are some amazing stories from this period in our history that had not been told, so area committees have been planning additional events coming up this March and April. The formal opening of the Heritage Center exhibit will include an appearance by Rev. Henry McNeal Turner (portrayed by Rev. Abdue Knox of Bethel AME Church near Selma), a famous U.S. Colored Troops chaplain who came through Smithfield in 1865. He will discuss two fascinating Smithfield accounts published in a Philadelphia newspaper during the war. 

What exhibits will be on display

Heritage Center Exhibit PanelThe displays will feature artifacts such as a Confederate infantry officer’s sword and hand-painted canteen, a rifle made at the Fayetteville Arsenal in 1864, a bugle played by a local soldier at Appomattox, wallet from a soldier with a girl’s tintype photograph still inside, Confederate currency, a saddle from a Union cavalryman’s horse, uniform buttons and other items unearthed by local citizens, a bayonet found in a tree near Bentonville, and church records bearing poignant messages from Union soldiers. There are also photographs from the war period, including a rare collection of tintype photos of U.S. Colored Troops.

The exhibit’s title panel shows Private William Lee of Johnston County wearing a U.S. Army uniform. Lee was one of the first men to volunteer in the Confederate Army in 1861, but for unknown reasons he later walked to federally occupied New Bern and volunteered to fight against his old comrades.
Johnston County was decidedly pro-Union throughout the war. Local voters sent Unionist delegates to the secession convention in Raleigh even after President Abraham Lincoln called for North Carolina to furnish troops for the U.S. Army.  The boys and men who fought in the war made up one tenth of the county’s population of about 15,000. Around 500 died from wounds or disease.

While deserters were hiding out in local forests and swamps to avoid capture by state militia in the spring of 1865, over 80,000 soldiers from North and South converged at Bentonville, leaving a path of destruction in their wake . Union soldiers burned several finer plantation houses in eastern Johnston County, although their superiors had not given such orders. The most well known incident was the Thomas Atkinson mansion on Brogden Road near the Wayne County line.

Johnston County Heritage Center is located at 241 E. Market Street, Smithfield, NC and for more information call 919-934-2836 or visit the center’s website, www.jcheritagecenter.org

Bentonville Reenactment150th Bentonville Battlefield Re-enactment

Later in the month of March, on the 21st and 22nd, the Friends of Bentonville Battlefield will host the largest Civil War battle re-enactment in North Carolina as one of the final 150th events in the state. 

Tickets purchased before March 15 are $12 for adults and $6 for children ages 9-12. Buying in advance also allows the purchase of a combination ticket for both days, March 21-22. That ticket is $20 for adults and $10 for children.

After March 15, remaining tickets will be sold at the gate for $15 for adults and $10 for children. Combination tickets will not be available. Children ages 8 and younger attend free.

The battle scenarios on Saturday and Sunday are the only events that require tickets. All other anniversary events – lectures, house tours, demonstrations and more – are free to the public. For complete information on the event, including ticket sales, visit www.150thBentonville.com 




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Explore new restaurants on the Clayton Food Tour

Explore new restaurants on the Clayton Food Tour

Independently owned restaurants continue to grow in popularity, spurred by passionate owners and chefs who are dedicated to creating fabulous culinary experiences. Good food offered in a great atmosphere is always a win, unless you don't know the restaurant is there! That's where the Clayton Food Tour comes in.

Partnering with local restaurants and shops, the Clayton Food Tour offers patrons the opportunity to experience a wide variety of restaurants in one evening. It's more than dinner out, it makes a great date night! My husband and I joined the last tour to see what it's all about. Despite living in Clayton for 13 years and being fairly well connected to the tourism industry, we found a few local places we didn't know we'd been missing! Traveling around town by limousine, we made some new friends along the way, like a couple who recently moved here from "the other coast." 


Our tour kicked off with fresh beverages at Juice Vibes. We enjoyed the "Big Bad Wolf," a refreshing blend of carrot, orange, apple, celery and lemon juice, which was light and tangy. We also got to sample one of their most popular smoothies, "All Hale to Kale" which includes kale, pineapple, banana, raw agave, lime, and coconut milk. It's topped with coconut flakes and hemp seeds. Give kale a chance with this fabulous, healthy drink! Juice Vibes is located at 11692 US 70 Business in Clayton, across from Lowe's.

We stopped at another restaurant I've never visited, but which is quickly becoming our go-to for carryout, Sak's Deli, which opened last April. Owner, Matthew Masisak, is dedicated to exceeding customers' expectations every time, and for me, he certainly did that. We sampled many dishes at Sak's Deli, all of them delicious, but if you've not visited yet, can I recommend the #15 --- Sak's Pizza Steak with homemade marinara, mozzarella and parmesan. This sandwich is made from the same steak as their Philly Cheesesteaks with the added goodness of sauce! Flavorful steak topped with warm sauce and gooey cheese --- oh yum! Sak's Deli is located at 876 Gulley Drive behind the Clayton Starbucks. Yeah… you know where that is. 


Getting to know each other at Sak's Deli

Our culinary adventure continued with stops at:

  • La Cucina Italiana, by the new Harris Teeter in Flower's Plantation, which has the most amazing pizza crust EVER! The restaurant has gotten 5-star ratings on every review site for good reason.
  • Rushing Buckets, at 119 Oleander Drive near East Clayton Elementary School, offers traditional and unique pizzas and local beer on tap (among other beverages). Open from 5-9 p.m. daily, Rushing Buckets also delivers.
  • Clayton Beverage Company, at 11679 US Business 70 West near Lowe's, offers more craft beer than I knew existed… probably since I'm not a big beer drinker. The owner and staff are committed to a quality experience and offer beer on tap or by the bottle or case. For the beer connoisseur, a visit here is a great idea!


Answering questions about Craft Beer at Clayton Beverage Company


Owners and staff welcoming us to La Cucina Italiana

Of course, no culinary experience is complete without dessert, and our tour included two stops. The limo driver dropped us off at Brick & Mortar, in downtown Clayton, where we enjoyed a sampling of cheeses, homemade cannoli and other pastries with a coffee liqueur. As always, the atmosphere and food were top notch. From there, we walked up the street to Sherry's Signature Cheesecakes at 120 E. Main Street, where we enjoyed coconut cheesecake and brownie bites in the casual dining area on the main floor. From here, we said good-bye to our hosts, Cindy and Melissa, and headed home stuffed!

About Clayton Food Tours

The monthly food tours allow up to 22 participants, providing plenty of personal attention and ample opportunity to enjoy the food. While there is some restaurant overlap, each tour is designed to encourage a unique experience. Some, like ours in January, travel throughout the greater Clayton area using a local limousine service. Others are focused on downtown eateries, allowing guests to enjoy a comfortable walking tour of all this town has to offer. 

  • Cost: $39/person, which includes dining, transportation (as appropriate) from downtown to the dining venues, take home menus and a discount card good for one visit to each participating establishment.
  • Unlimited passport: $149/person, which includes 4 dining experiences and relevant transportation, priority booking, two 50% off discounts for friends or family to use, and additional discounts to use at Clayton area restaurants and businesses. 

The next food tour, scheduled for February 17, has a Valentine's Day theme. Buy tickets online today. 

Gift certificates are also available for future use. 

We enjoyed the food tour, ate way too much and made new friends along the way. If you are new to Clayton or want to learn more about the culinary trend this foodie town has to offer, dinner through the Clayton Food Tour is a great way to do that! Clayton is also very close to the Raleigh area, so Clayton Food Tours would be a convenient and refreshing night out for couples or groups in the Triangle. Definitely include this on your list of Things to Do in Raleigh or the Johnston County area. Bring your appetite!


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Think Clayton - Think Valentine's Day

Think Clayton - Think Valentine's Day

Love is in the air in Clayton at area restaurants and special event venues where couples will have several choices for an evening out on Saturday, February 14th.  And not to forget our friends east on I-40 in Benson, the Preston Woodall House is holding a special event too!

From classical music to the Beatles and wine tastings....choose from the following events:

Jonathan LevinClassical pianist Jonathan Levin, will be hosting the 3rd Annual Valentine's Day Gala at the Historic Wagner House beginning at 6pm.  

Titled “Tales of Love from Beethoven to Broadway”, the concert will feature music based in some way on a little thing called…yes you guessed it – Love! There will be a fun mix of classical and some music from the golden age of American songwriting including CPF’s own Jonathan Levin premiering some of his own virtuosic piano arrangements of Broadway favorites by Jerome Kern, Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers.  Jonathan will be joined by two world-class artists, violinist Michael Danchi and mezzo-soprano Nora Graham-Smith.  For the past few years Ms. Graham-Smith has sung roles in operas the world over, as well as in America. She is currently a resident artist at Opera Memphis in Tennessee.  Michael Danchi is no stranger to the triangle area, and has enjoyed a multi-faceted career as a violinist, composer, ballet dancer, sound engineer, and screenwriter.  In addition to performances nationwide, has performed locally as a soloist with the Raleigh and Durham Symphonies and with the Carolina Ballet both as violinist and dancer. 

After the concert there will be a reception where you will be able to mingle with the performers.  For more information and to purchase tickets which are $60.00 per person, contact Paul Black at 919-585-1221

Brick and Mortar  

Save the date for a romantic evening of food & wine! The menu posted below will be paired with wonderful wines from around the world! Taste 6 wines served at 6 different stations paired with fabulous food!
     Cheese & Fruit Display
     Italian Wedding Soup with Crostini
     Grilled Shrimp & Grilled Chicken
     Pizza display - variety of our homemade, hand tossed pizzas
     Filet Mignon with rich balsamic glaze
     Chocolate Extravaganza (variety of decadent desserts)
Party begins at 6:30 pm
Tickets:  $40.00
For ticket requests call 919-616-8995

Manning's on Main

Chef Howard Manning, who worked in Raleigh for several years, opened Manning's on Main in August of 2014 to rave reviews and a consistently packed restaurant. His elevated southern menu is flavorful and rich. The restaurant is preparing a memorable Valentine's Day experience with carriage rides, for more information visit the website for hours, location and to review the regular menu.  919-585-7005

The Preston Woodall House

The Preston Woodall House has booked the Todd Montgomery Duo to play at their Valentine's Dinner, Saturday February 14th, playing during both the 6:00pm and 8:30pm seatings! Enjoy this dynamic duo as they play great songs coming from these artists plus many more...Billy Joel, Elton John, Ray Charles, Cole Porter, and Sam Cooke.

The extensive dinner menu includes Prime Rib and Roasted Chicken with hors d'oeuvres, salads, sides and desserts for $80.00 per person (includes tax and gratuity). All meals served with one complimentary glass of champagne.  A cash bar will be available throughout the evening.  Call 919-894-7025 for reservations.







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JoCo Has Talent - A Classical Jonathan Levin

JoCo Has Talent - A Classical Jonathan Levin

Getting to work with talented and truly gifted artists like Jonathan Levin, a native of Clayton, is just one of the greatest perks of this job.  It's not very hard to write a few words in a blog or send out press releases to help our local artists. In comparison, concert pianists like Jonathan have literally invested thousands of hours of practice to bring us, the audience, a touch of classical music.

When interviewing Jonathan recently, I asked how do your fingers move so fast along the piano keys, and he replied "it's sometimes just muscle memory and they may move faster than my brain can remember the notes".  How scary, but that's when he relies on those thousands of hours of practice to come through for him and us.

This February 14th, for the third year, the Clayton Piano Festival will give a concert at the Historic Wagner House.  This year's performance is entitled, "Tales of Love from Beethoven to Broadway" and it will expand to include Violinist Michael Danchi and Mezzo Soprano Nora Graham-Smith.  Jonathan will himself perform this year and bring his own piano transcriptions of songs from the Great American Songbook.  Dinner will be served with a reception following the concert to meet the performers.  Tickets are $60.00 per person and available by calling 919-585-1221.

Jonathan is Artistic Director and Founder of the Clayton Piano Festival which seeks to create accessible, educational, world-class concerts and music presentations that uniquely enrich the cultural life of the area. The festival, which presented its first season of concerts, public classes, school outreach and other community events in February, 2012, aims to bridge the gap between performer and audience, bringing classical piano music to people of all ages and levels of exposure to the arts.  For the past three years, he has been Musical Director of Natchez Festival of Music's Educational Outreach Program and is also on the faculty of Remarkable Theater Brigade's Summer Young Artists Program for vocalists.  A sought after collaborative pianist, Jonathan has appeared on the Vox Novus/RTB Composers Voice Concert Series and has worked closely with respected voice teachers Paul Sperry and Monica Harte. 

Jonathan hopes to give that feeling of magic of live performance through interaction with his audience -- how lucky we are his wish and mission is to create magic!  Don't miss an opportunity to hear Jonathan play, or to engage him in conversation about music, photography (another of his passions)....his sense of humor is truly charming and his love for Clayton very obvious!

Jonathan, please don't stop bringing us a touch of magic to Clayton! 


 Jonathan Levin plays Gershwin/Wild Virtuoso Etude No. 4 "Embraceable You"

















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2015 NC Travel Guide cover features Bentonville Battlefield

NC Travel Guide CoverVisit NC, a unit of the new Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, announced on December 15th that the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site's Harper House will grace the cover of the 2015 NC Travel Guide.  There will be 600,000 guides printed to promote North Carolina, half with the Bentonville cover and the Outer Banks on the other half. 

This must be what it feels like to be on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.  For a tourism destination our size to make the cover of the state's top destination marketing piece, that's as good as it gets. What an honor for our historic site as they prepare for the 150th Reenactment events, March 21-22, the publicity value is tremendous.

In addition to the cover, the bureau has put together a Sweepstakes Get-a-way which will run on the Visitnc.com website until January 31st.  The offer includes a weekend stay at the Fairfield Inn & Suites with one-of-a-kind personal tours at Double Barley, Hinnant Winery and the Ava Gardner Museum.  The grand prize also includes gift cards to Carolina Premium Outlet, Serendipity Road Restaurant, and a gift bag from the Visitors Bureau.  A bonus for the winner will be tickets to the 150th Re-enactment at Bentonville Battlefield next March.

The North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development recently announced that domestic visitors traveling more than 50 miles to Johnston County spent $204.51 in 2013, an increase of 3.5 percent over 2012 figures.  Other signs the tourism industry is healthy in Johnston County includes new hotel development, investment in new tourism attractions, and openings of service industry businesses like restaurants, retail, and transportation companies.

The mission of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau is to attract and serve visitors to the county, therefore, improving the economic well-being of all communities through increased visitor spending and tourism development.  Find our more on our website, www.johnstoncountync.org/jc-tourism-authority 

Pictured left to right:  Lynn Daniels, Johnston County Tourism Authority, Wit Tuttell, Executive Director, Visit NC, Donna Bailey-Taylor,  Johnston County Visitors Bureau, Executive Director, Donny Taylor, Site Manager, Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site.



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Meet the new Johnston County Tourism Authority Board Members

Meet the new Johnston County Tourism Authority Board Members

In October, the Johnston County Commissioners appointed four members to the Johnston County Tourism Authority, two returning and two new members. The same month, the Four Oaks Chamber of Commerce announced one additional board member, making a total of five members appointed.

Jim Godfrey, President of the Clayton Chamber of Commerce was reappointed to a second three year term. Godfrey serves as chairman of the Johnston County Sports Council. Karen Henthorn, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Carolina Premium Outlets, was reappointed to a second three-year term, and she serves on the Johnston County Visitors Bureau Marketing Committee.

New members are Warren Stancil, owner of Interstate Outdoor, Inc., Rosa Andrews, Director of Economic Development at Johnston Community College, and Stacy Lee with the Town of Four Oaks Parks and Recreation Department. Stancil and Lee will serve on the Special Projects Committee and Andrews will serve on the new JoCo Hospitality Association. The Johnston County Tourism Authority is the governing board for the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, providing oversight for the room tax funds collected from area hotels. The board is charged with promoting the county's tourism assets, granting funds for special events, and capital funding for tourism development projects.

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina recently announced that domestic visitors traveling more than 50 miles to Johnston County spent $204.51 in 2013, an increase of 3.5 percent over 2012 figures.  Other signs the tourism industry is healthy in Johnston County include new hotel development, investment in new tourism attractions and openings of service industry businesses like restaurants, retail, and transportation.

In other news, the Tourism Authority Board elected  Keith Brinson, Johnston County Farm Bureau, to serve as Vice-Chairman and Lynn Daniels, Super 8 of Smithfield, to serve as Secretary. Ernie Brame, Kenly 95 Petro Truckstop, is the current Chairman of the authority and other members of the board include, Scotty Henley with The Clayton Center, Joseph Stallings from the Town of Benson, and Chad McLamb, Ex-officio County Finance Officer.

More information on the programs, budget, and activities of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau may be found on the website, johnstoncountync.org/jc-tourism-authority or by calling 919-989-8687. 


Photo Caption:  Members of the Johnston County Tourism Authority and Executive Director, Donna Bailey-Taylor. Pictured seated row left to right:  Donna Bailey-Taylor, Rosa Andrews, Ernie Brame, Lynn Daniels, Karen Henthorn; Standing row left to right: Jim Godfrey, Warren Stancil, Stacy Lee, Keith Brinson, Scotty Henley and Joe Stallings.

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