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

Evans to Unveil a Jewel of a Store

Evans to Unveil a Jewel of a Store

Evans to Unveil a Jewel of a Store

Evans New Shop

Evans Jewelers is happy to announce the Grand Opening of their new location, 320 E. Market St. in downtown Smithfield. On September 18th a ribbon cutting ceremony will begin at 5:00pm followed by a night of live music, food, and beverages. It is open to the public and it is a night more than 2 years in the making. As owner Daniel Evans said, " we have been so blessed in our business that we needed more space, but we wanted to do it right. We had been discussing it for a while before deciding on our new location and getting to work on the remodel." 

The new space is truly only a few paces away from their current story, but much larger. Daniel said he chose the location because he loves being in downtown Smithfield, "the downtown area is historic and it has a lot to offer."

Visitors to the new shop will be pleasantly surprised. It does not look like a jewelry store. It has an open, urban loft feel to it with plenty of hardwood, brass, and cooper elements to give it a warm feeling. Honestly, I wanted to move in. I was assured that was the feel they were going for. Evans Jewelers will be a destination... and one with a lot to offer.


Not Your Typical Grocery Store

To begin with I was told that Evans will always first and foremost be a jewelry store, as it has been for over 40 years. But the new location will allow for the offering of ancillary products. One of those products will be cigars from the Dominican Republic. There will be 5 blends on offer, uniquely made for Evans Jewelers and stored in the stunning Spanish oak walk-in humidor in the shop. Eventually the shop will also carry affordable boutique wines. It will be a small collection, but full of vineyards and varietals you can't find in a grocery store.

The new store location will also see the edition of a bridal registry. Not just fine china, but everyday china, pewter serving pieces, glassware, crystal, and other giftware. But the selection won't be limited to brides. Baby, graduation, and retirement gifts will also be available. Brides will be able to sign-up for the registry in-store and sit down with Anna Evans to discuss the makings of their ideal registry. Evans will send out registration announcements at no additional cost to you and they can also take orders over the phone and ship purchases for guests that do not live in the area.

ring options
The wine tastings, cigar blendings, charity events, and other happenings will soon be a normal occurrence in the new made-for-entertaining Evans space. But I asked Daniel in light of all the new additions, what he liked best about being a jeweler, "about 75-80% of our products are custom designed pieces. So, what I enjoy most is seeing a customer smile when we really get it right, when the piece of jewelry we make for them is exactly what they wanted. And knowing that the piece we created for them may one day be a family heirloom, that creates connectivity across generations." 

Almost every product at Evans is truly unique and Daniel says that it is this sense of matchlessness that lends itself to the hard work and individuality they put into the new Evans Jewelers location. He says that he hopes customers will appreciate the blending of old and new. If you want to see the amazing space for yourself, mark the evening of the 18th of September on your calendar. I'll see you at the grand opening!

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Kaylin Roberson Talks About Her Message and Her Music

Kaylin Roberson Talks About Her Message and Her Music

In this JoCo Has Talent Blog I sit down with local artist Kaylin Roberson to discuss her message and her music...

It's pretty hard to imagine having a life-altering experience at 9 years-old. At that age I was still struggling to decide which Backstreet Boy was cuter and how I could convince my parents to let me have a kitten. Kaylin Roberson however, was dealing with a traumatizing dog attack and having an epiphany regarding her place in the world.
"I was 9 and I was visiting my grandparents in Virginia. We had just gotten back from the fair and I went into the living room to pet their black lab who was sleeping. He woke up and he bit my face. I was in the hospital for 3 days and I was on life support for about 4 hours."

It's hard to believe that a child at such a young and venerable stage in life could take something inspiring away from that sort of incident, but Kaylin did. It was a wake-up call. In her more than 2 weeks recovery process Kaylin spent a lot of time making videos. She had always enjoyed dancing, acting, and singing; she can also play the heck outta a piano. But, those 14 days allowed her to reflect on her passion for music and her current circumstances.

"I knew that I would have to go back to school and my face was still swollen. I had to have over 200 stitches. I wondered if my friends would ridicule me. I thought about what I had been through and what I would have to go through and music really helped me. I thought, what if I can help other kids."

Sharing Her Music

And so, eight years later, that's what Kaylin Roberson is doing. Using music to inspire and help others. You may have seen her at JCC performing in the Country Music Showcase, or more recently out at The Farm Food Truck Festival as one of the local acts. She also travels around with One Voice Project (an anti-bullying tour) and Doggone Safe (a dog safety and bite prevention non-profit) in order to use her story and her music to inspire and comfort. She has sung for orphanages, schools, and dog attack victims.
Kaylin Singing
Once Kaylin realized what she wanted to do with her music, she got serious about it. She started taking lessons and also committed to other talents she had previously dabbled in. She is what the industry calls a triple threat - trained in singing, acting, and dancing.

For an artist who has taken voice lessons with Clay Aiken and shared a stage with Jason Michael Carroll, it's humbling to hear her talk about the highlight of her career so far, "I love seeing the reaction other kids have to my music. A lot of kids I've visited with and played for still follow me, still ask when I'm coming back to perform near them. The other day a lady called my Mom to tell her that her children had started a Kaylin Task Force at their school to combat bullying."

At 16 Kaylin is well on her way to the big stage, but she says that she doesn't mind if she has to play a thousand little gigs to get there. It's all part of working your way up. She shared with me her thoughts on making it big, "you have to be the background music before you can be the main act." Sage advice. A young lady very mature for her age, I often forgot that I was sitting with someone more than a decade my junior.

When she isn't performing Kaylin is busy song-writing, something she finds more of a relaxing hobby than a chore. It is important in the music industry to build a catalogue of solid, original songs and she is well on her way. She has two new songs dropping very soon, one is called Sad But True. She also has a music video out for her song Life Must Go On.


Her Inspiring Message

I asked her where she draws her inspiration from when writing lyrics, "the best songs come from personal experiences, but I also listen to the cool things that other artists are doing. I steal experiences from my friends sometimes. Writing songs is about really emotional moments - joy and sadness."

Who's her dream collaboration? Sam Hunt. Excellent choice. She also says that she has a real respect for singer/songwriters like Ed Sheeran and Birdy. Her favorite song to cover recently has been Cam's Burning House. Kaylin's next big step is going to be getting signed by a record label... hopefully! But you can still catch her around the county from time to time. She played the Ham & Yam festival a few months ago and she loves performing in JoCo.

When she's not working on or performing music Kaylin likes to dance, shop, hang with friends, and go to country concerts. She also plays with her dog, a chocolate lab who's older now but who came to her and her family as a puppy... a few weeks before the dog attack that changed Kaylin's life. She said she wouldn't let her parents get rid of the dog and she didn't want the dog that bit her put down either - he was saved thanks to Virginia's first bite forgiveness rule.

"I'm not afraid of dogs. It's not the dogs fault. But, dog attacks do happen and much more often than you think. That's why I work with Doggone Safe. They educate adults and children on how to interact with dogs and it allows me to work with victims to share my own story and share my music."

Check out Kaylin's music at the provided links, and if you have a chance check her out in concert (she performs at a lot of events in Raleigh, the Triangle, and Johnston County). She is one talented teen and one incredibly thoughtful soul. I certainly wish her the best on her musical journey.

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A Simple Twist of Fate

A Simple Twist of Fate

A Simple Twist of Fate     

People tell me it's a sin
To know and feel too much within
I still believe she was my twin, but I lost the ring
She was born in spring, but I was born too late
Blame it on a simple twist of fate.
-Bob Dylan

In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, blame it on a simple twist of fate. Nathan and Colleen Roby named their little-restaurant-that-could Simple Twist. And so it seems that the providence of that namesake has carried them into the present with not one, but two thriving locations.

The restaurant business is not for the faint of heart. It takes hard work and long hours. But Colleen credits their success to the locals for the passion they have shown for Simple Twist through their patronage, "we opened the first location in Garner in June 2014 and community support helped to make it an instant success."Simple Twist Burger

Both excellent service and fresh, unique cuisine choices help to set Simple Twist apart. Colleen and Nate - who runs the kitchen and sets the menu - have developed partnerships with local producers, "we have close relationships with farmers in the area that have brought us all kinds of locally grown produce. We only serve Certified Angus Beef, the best kind of beef you can get. We use high quality ingredients to create delicious meals."

It's this same dedication to sourcing that carries over into the quality of the food. Colleen stated that the restaurant also works hard to keep menu items homemade, "Everything is made from scratch, there is hardly anything in the freezer." She points out, "In fact, we converted a large 2 door freezer into a cooler when we first opened since we did not need the space for freezing product." Cool.

Customers can taste the love and passion that goes into every bite and they showed their appreciation by showing up. A lot. In June 2015 Simple Twist opened a second location here in Smithfield to keep up with demand. Smithfield's residents and workforce couldn't be happier.

And the restaurant's business keeps growing. Nathan and Colleen just recently decided to extend their hours at the Smithfield location, "we plan to open Sundays starting August 30th. We will have Bloody Marys and Mimosas served with our regular menu, and will be open from 11AM-4PM." Simple Twist is also working with the Johnston County Visitors Bureau on initiatives that will bring visitors into Johnston County and into Simple Twist. You can read about the Girlfriends Getaway Hotel Package here.

One thing I suggest you don't leave up to a simple twist of fate is a visit to this restaurant. Click here to print a coupon for your first visit. I absolutely love the twisted guacamole. It includes three of my favorite things - avocados, bacon, and bleu cheese. Yum! Click on the video below to watch Chef Nathan Roby whip up this amazing appetizer.

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Stanfield's Stores a Little Bit of the Past in the Present

Stanfield's Stores a Little Bit of the Past in the Present

Stanfield's Stores a Little Bit of the Past in the Present

In 1914 it was Massengill's Store & Warehouse. Stanfield's General Store

In 1944 it was RA Temple's O-Kay Groceries.

In 1965 it was Austin's General Store.

Now Stanfield's General Store, this piece of real estate in downtown Four Oaks, NC has been a rural destination of supplies and sustenance for the people of southern Johnston County for decades.

Before the birth of super-markets and mega-stores, the local general store was where life's necessities were acquired. Sometimes stretching across multiple store fronts, general stores had hardware materials, farm supplies, groceries, toys, cleaning products, clothing, and candy. Because of this, general stores were also normally a community's hub of activity, of social interaction, and of gossip.

David Stanfield kept all this in mind when he opened Stanfield's General Store a few months ago after purchasing three connected store fronts on Main Street. Along with some hardware supplies and lawn care products, he carries delightfully unique arts and crafts, food stuffs, drinks, toys, and jewelry. All of these products are made locally. David said he wanted to highlight and support local craftsmen, "I also wanted products in my store that you couldn't get anywhere else."

Good Things Are in Store

Stanfield's General Store Shelves
Since its grand opening, Standfield's has welcomed shoppers from all over the county and beyond. So far the store only exists within one store front space. This leaves David with two other spaces to expand into or do something completely different with. No definitive plans have been made yet. As for growing in-store events, Stanfield's may soon have bluegrass jam session nights. Or possibly days where you can meet local craftsman of the products you can purchase in the store. In the meantime I recommend the cheese straws and the glass bottle Coke's. 

The possibilities for expansion are endless. Among them the opportunity for general stores like Stanfield's to once again become the hub of social interaction for the community. A place where families gather to play music together, to purchase necessities, to chat over life's ups and downs, and to find what glaringly-lit box stores can't offer - a sense of community and a feeling of pride that only shopping local can give you.

You can visit Stanfield's at 105 N. Main St., Four Oaks, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Reach them by phone at 919-963-9607 or search “Stanfield's General Store” on Facebook.

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Horseless Carriages to Take a Tour of Johnston County

Horseless Carriages to Take a Tour of Johnston County

Did you know that next week is officially Horseless Carriage Club Week in Johnston County?


Well, now you do. An official proclamation from the county was issued in congruence with the first visit to the area by the North Carolina Regional Group of the Horseless Carriage Club of America. This touring antique car club actually includes members from all over the southeast who meet annually for a summer driving tour through a selected host city. 

Horseless Carriage

Johnston County is happy to be hosting antique automotive enthusiast to our area, which is rich in heritage and hospitality. I, of course, had questions about this unique event. What is a horseless carriage? What is a tour? 

The first thing I learned is that the Horseless Carriage Club of America has 70 regional groups across the world. In the North Carolina Regional Group there are members from within the state and also places like Virginia, Georgia, and Florida. The biggest event in the club is the yearly tour, going on its 64th year, and it has never been hosted in eastern NC until now. Members meet at the host location, often bringing their cars in trailers, and then spend the next few days driving the antique cars around caravan style while enjoying the local points of interest.How old are these things? I sat down with Selma native, tour host, and 5-year member Tommy Fitzgerald. He was happy to answer all my questions and also, theoretically, teach me how to drive a Model-T.

Must Be 100 Years Old to Join... Sorta

I was fascinated to find that only a very specific type of car can claim membership in the club. Cars manufactured prior to 1928 are allowed, though a lot of the cars driving around Johnston County next week will be over 100 years old. We’re talking about cars that were made by hand pre-assembly line era (RIP Henry Ford). That is where the term horseless carriage comes from. The very first cars looked like carriages without horses hitched to them. As Tommy Fitzgerald put it, “very few cars on the road today, and not in museums, represent the infancy of the automobile industry.”

The responsibility of preserving this era of human ingenuity instills horseless carriage owners with a sense of purpose. Club members own these cars for the driving and the enjoyment, but mostly they do it to help preserve an important piece of history. “It is for posterity,” says Fitzgerald, “in the club we say that you might have the title and the bill of sale, but you never really own the car. The car belongs to history.”

And there will be cars on this tour that you have never seen before and will likely never see again, even a car with a steam-powered engine. Over 75 cars and around 200 people have signed-up. Drivers range in age from late twenties to over eighty. Fitzgerald explained that most drivers but cars in working condition, already restored. Some die-hards with the knack for it like to buy and fix up automobiles themselves.

Horseless Carriage 2

Gentlemen (and Ladies) Start Your Engines

I wanted to know about the ability of these cars to perform on modern streets and at considerable distances. I learned something new again. Legally, a car must only be equipped with the safety features it came with. So, if you drive your 2015 Ford Escape without doors, seatbelts, or airbags… that’s illegal. Driving a 1918 Ford Model-T lacking some of the same features is perfectly legal because the car was not manufactured with those features in the first place. As for performance, Fitzgerald assures me these cars are all in perfect working condition. The average touring day finds the group traveling 100-125 miles, though routes tend to traverse secondary roads and not major highways.

If you have a desire to see any of these fascinating and historical cars for yourself, the club will be doing at least 2 public displays. One next Monday the 20th at Deacon Jones from around 5:30PM to 8PM. Another at Holt’s Lake Bar-B-Que on Wednesday the 22nd around lunchtime.

Thank you to Tommy Fitzgerald and his wife Donna for bringing this amazing event to Johnston County. I would like to wish you and the rest of the Horseless Carriage Club members a fun and safe tour. 


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Rebekah Todd Talks Benson, Bands, and Being an Independent Artist

Rebekah Todd Talks Benson, Bands, and Being an Independent Artist

Rebekah Todd Talks Benson, Bands, and Being an Independent Artist

~ As I move through the dim atmosphere of the bar I look around at the sparse crowd of early arrivals - it's barely 9:30PM - I know who I am looking for but not sure if I'll know when I find her. Some people look different in person than what you image from promo pictures and YouTube videos. But, as I look to my right and find Rebekah Todd sitting at a booth with her band I am pleased to find that she looks exactly as you imagine her. The long cotton fringe sleeveless vest and the brown wool felt panama-esque hat on her head make her look like the love child of Stevie Nicks and Patti Smith. Appropriate given her musical chops.

Though many musicians can seem or actually are aloof, Rebekah is instantly warm and friendly while introducing me to her band and making me feel welcome in their circle. She's in the quiet lull between set-up and show-time for her Raleigh concert at Tir Na Nog. The noise of the bar fades to the background while we chat about music, muses, and Johnston County. For those of you not in the know, Rebekah Todd is from Benson, NC where she grew-up, in her own words, weird, "I was constantly trying to find ways to channel this creative energy I had." She admits that she had a few close friends but often preferred being alone with her latest project - painting, knitting, and papermaking to name a few. She recalls a funny story of using her mom's kitchen blenders in order to shred paper, adding water to make pulp, "she found me and her kitchen in a mess and was not any less mad when I simply explained that I was making my own paper".

It was this level of intense creativity that lead Rebekah to song-writing. She had been singing her whole life and writing music felt like an extension of that. It was her father who suggested a musical instrument, "he had a really good point," she says, "about having to rely on others to make the music, having to find a band or a partner. If I could play an instrument then I could be a singular act if I wanted to, it would lend me flexibility and autonomy. So he bought me a guitar." She was 16 at the time and her Dad's intuition paid off. By the time she went to college at East Carolina University she was able to make extra money playing gigs at local businesses - just her and her guitar.

Musical Influence - a Little Bit of Rock and a Little Bit of Soul

While having an amazing repertoire of original songs - more on that in a minute - Rebekah's live shows include an impressive collection of covers. Songs like Superstition, and Rhiannon which is a tie for her favorite cover (the other favorite being The Thrill is Gone). I asked what sort of music had an early influence on her own sound, "classic rock, my Dad listened to a lot of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. I also love soul, like Aretha Franklin, so my own style is sort of a blend of rock, soul, and folk.

I ask her about her newest album Roots Bury Deep, out February of last year, and how writing is going for the next album, "I wish I could be like those artists who are disciplined enough to write an hour every day, but I have to wait until I really feel it. That might mean going days without anything and then spending hours writing when the right feeling and inspiration comes over me."

What was her favorite song off the last album? "Wishing Well is very meaningful to me even though it isn't the most popular on the album." I make a mental note to give it another few listens. You should too. The sultry tones of Rebekah's voice that make covers like Rhiannon feel so right in her capable hands elevates the haunting lyrics of Wishing Well and takes the song to a whole new level.

I asked about a manager and she just shakes her head, "I do it all on my own." This seems dubious to me, with my miniscule knowledge of the music industry. How do you know what to do and who to talk to and how to negotiate things? That's my true technical talk right there. She just laughs, "I taught myself.  When I started I was just working for tips and now I've done 100 gigs this year alone - it's only July! I've learned how to self-manage and the terrain that goes along with that." Rebekah has in fact turned herself into a booking agent as a side job. It evolved out of her knowledge in self-booking; she had so many gigs coming in that she was having to pass them up and she had the thought to start booking them for other artists and friends (and getting a small portion of the cut, as booking agents do). Truly entrepreneurial. But, then, that's the new music business... sports isn't the only industry moving slowly towards a free agent model. A lot of artists do it all on their own. Her latest album was financially supported by fans and sponsors through Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a website that allows artists and other individuals to raise money for social campaigns or creative endeavors.

On the Road, Take the Stage

Rebekah Todd is often a lone act, just her and her guitar, but she switches it up a lot. As a group act she is Rebekah Todd and The Odyssey - her band. However she is currently touring with The Oblations, a band out of Chapel Hill, making them Rebekah Todd and TRebekah Toddhe Oblations. She confided in me her dream celebrity collaboration would be Neil Young. This just makes me want to ask her to sing Heart of Gold. But instead I ask her if she has anything else she wants to tell me about her music, "I think I'm going to switch my guitar out for electric soon, go less acoustic. I'm ready to be edgy, add more rock to my soul." That sounds like something I'm ready to hear.

I ask her if she gets back to Benson these days with all the touring and what she loves about it. Her answer is wonderfully honest, "If you had asked me this question 5 or 6 years ago I would have had a different answer, but what I like most now about my hometown is the comfort of returning to the familiar. Benson never changes, not where it counts, and it's nice to be able to come back to that."

I ask her what place or business she misses the most, "it's crazy, but, El Charro. I cannot get chicken quesadillas like that anywhere else."

The deliciousness of Johnston County's unique Latino restaurant options seems like as good a topic as any to end on. This further confirms my growing notion by this point that not only is Rebekah Todd one heck of a musician, but a funny, kind, southern soul. If you haven't given this JoCo talent a try, please do. You can listen to all her music here, catch her video performances here, and get info about her latest tour dates here. Rebekah plays festivals and events in Johnston County from time to time - for a full list of events visit www.johnstoncountyevents.com.

Thanks for taking the time Rebekah, you rock!

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Local Artist Conspires to Take Clayton on a JOURNEY

Local Artist Conspires to Take Clayton on a JOURNEY

Local Artist Conspires to Take Clayton on a JOURNEY


Anyone venturing down Main Street in Clayton, NC last Wednesday night, June 24th, would have heard the familiar notes of an iconic rock song. A song that stretches across generations and genres with a message, Don't Stop Believing. The music was coming from the front lawn of a unique and chic newcomer to downtown Clayton called Wine on Main. But anyone not in attendance at the event would have never known that the music cutting through the sultry southern night and spilling out into the street was not a recording, nor was it the easily recognizable tones of singer and one time Journey front-man Steve Perry. It was the mellow tones of the songs creator, a talented musician and lyricist, and a founding member of Journey, Jonathan Cain. A god of classic rock sitting in a small spot light in the front lawn of a wine shop, playing to an intimate crowd of lucky and enthralled attendees.
Jonathan Cain
As one of those lucky attendees I had to take a moment to pinch myself as I sat less than 6 feet away from a member of one of my favorite bands of all time. My body feeling the minute vibrations as the piano notes spilled forth from the singular amplifier sitting on the porch beside where I had perched to watch Mr. Cain's set. But he wasn't just there to play, he was there to sign bottles of wine from his own label - a collaboration with De La Montanya Winery. As I listened to the melody of Open Arms wash over me I wondered how this event has all come together.

Since that magical night last week I have discovered that the answer to my question is Clark Hipolito. Clark is a local Clayton artist and part owner of Wine on Main, along with Mandy Tamplin and Temple Phipps. His story is an interesting one that inexplicably brings together art, guitars, wine, and Journey.

Evolution of the Artist

Clark Hipolito grew up in New Jersey, but his career as an artist really started when  he went to work at MTV in New York. Clark said, "working at MTV was pretty much the beginning of it all. Every single day I would meet a new rockstar and being around that kind of environment, it only was natural that I’d never be able to work a normal job ever again." He started out working on the sets at MTV- first doing graphics, then painting murals, and later having fine art shows featuring his paintings. Clark's work has been featured on the set of shows like Sex in the City and Dawson's Creek.

Living up in NYC was great, but very intense and fast paced, and in 1994 Clark was ready for a change. He considered moving to Atlanta or Charleston, but after doing some research and looking at the growth trends of the time he ended up in downtown Raleigh. Upon moving to Raleigh he started spending lots of time in Wrightsville Beach to blow off steam. At the time Wilmington was still a big hub for the film industry,and he made lots of great connections there as well.

"The evolution of my career has been very unique," Clark says. As unique as the evolving use of materials he uses as his canvas. Clark renders amazing works of art on surfboards, guitars, and even skateboards. When asked about the evolutionary process of moving from an aesthetic canvas to a practical one, he said it happened because of a personal interest he took in surfing, "at some point after I moved to North Carolina I went on a business trip to Charleston - and I came across Folly Beach and saw the waves there. I went to the local surf shop and bought a cheap used surfboard, that was covered in dings and duck tape, and I went surfing."  

When he returned to Raleigh he took it upon himself to restore the board and in the process he ended up putting a wood grained faux finish on it as well as some decorative scroll work. From that moment on every time he'd take it out to the beach people would ask him about it, "a lot of them wanted me to paint their own board and then things just snowballed from there." Journey Guitar

As Clark remembers it, "I started doing art shows using surfboards and skateboards as my canvas. I garnered lots of national recognition and great press from around the world for my work. I was getting lots of high profile clients- like Pink, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, and pro athletes like Mario Williams. At one point my friends from Line Up Magazine commissioned me to paint a guitar that they wanted signed by all the rockstars performing at the Bonaroo Music Festival. I painted it, then went to the festival and met with so many awesome performers like Robert Plant, Ben Folds, Phil Lesh, and Jack Johnson."

He adds, "We ended up taking the guitar to San Diego for a fundraiser sponsored by Line UP Magazine and Fuel TV at the Hard Rock Hotel and got even more recognition. I started getting commissions left and right for the guitars and surfboards, and I haven’t slowed down since."

Indeed that sounds like quite the whirlwind. Clark was introduced to Clayton when he started dating his friend and business partner, Temple Phipps, who owns a dog grooming business, Doggy Do’z, located in downtown. This was the catalyst for his interest in the area. He speaks fondly of this little piece of Johnston County, "after spending time here I’ve really fallen in love with the people and the amazing sense of community in Clayton. Main Street reminds me of how downtown Raleigh made me feel 20 years ago. We ended up opening Wine on Main a few months ago, and haven’t looked back.  Clayton just keeps getting better and better every day."

Wine, Art, and Music Meet in Clayton

And so we have come to the part in the story that wine, and specifically Wine on Main, enters in. This classy little wine shop did in fact burst onto the downtown business scene a few months ago. They offer tastings, classes, musical events, trunk shows, and all other manner of unique happenings. I asked Clark how Jonathan Cain ended up being one of those musical events.

It turns out, that's a rather short story. Clark has been the featured artist for The Triangle Wine Experience for the last 15 years. Along the way he's met lots of great wine makers and other people associated with the wine industry. A few months ago Clark got a call from a good friend, "Ziggy Eschilman, who’s a  radio personality in Napa, called me and told me someone wanted to meet me because they really liked my work, and that this person was coming to North Carolina to meet with me."

It turned out to be Jonathan Cain from Journey. Jonathan has his own wine label - Finale Wines - and he had heard of Clark's talent. Jonathan ended up giving Clark a couple of guitars to paint and in return, Clark asked him to come back for a visit and do an event at Wine On Main. The idea was to unveil one of the painted guitars and do a bottle signing, and possibly a performance. "He actually said yes and I was elated," said Clark. Who wouldn't be?!

As a Journey fan, I of course wanted to know what working with Jonathan Cain was like. Clark said, "meeting him was incredible, we hit it off right away! He’s a really cool guy and filled with cool stories about his life, music, and song writing.  After our original meeting here in NC, I flew out to Las Vegas to talk to him more about the project, and after spending more quality time with he and his wife, Paula White Cain, we decided that one of the guitars would end up in a glass display case at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas." Wow! From a wine shop in Clayton, NC all the way to Las Vegas, Nevada. What a heck of a journey. Sorry, I couldn't help myself. Wine on Main Group Shot

Clark wasn't wrong about Cain having some amazing stories. During his 30 minute or so set at Wine on Main he reminisced about his inspiration when writing iconic songs like Don't Stop Believing, Open Arms, and Faithfully.

I asked Clark about his own inspiration when it comes to his art. As someone who has had a career spanning various forms of artistic expression, what is his favorite? He gives an unbiased answer, "I honestly love it all! Designing nightclubs and restaurants can be very gratifying because it can encompasses all aspects of art and design. I get to create my dream environments and as part of that interior landscape I’ll usually incorporate a mural I've painted or use my surfboard and guitar art as part of the decor. But if I had to really narrow it down- I think I like painting surfboards and guitars most… at least for now." You can see some examples of Clark's art in Wine on Main.

To bring it full circle, I asked Clark what his favorite Journey song was. The answer - Stone in Love. An excellent choice, though he mentioned it was a tough call. I prefer Separate Ways myself. Speaking of going separate ways, I was buzzing with energy when I left Wine on Main last week after personally thanking Mr. Cain for visiting and sharing with him a story about my love for Journey music. Walking to my car I was again struck by the hidden gems that can exist in the fabric of small town life. The music of Journey on a quiet evening. The passion and drive behind Clark Hipolito's art. The realization that small, growing towns like Clayton, and others in Johnston County, sometimes surprise us with what they have to offer. And, like Clark said, things are getting better and better every day. Hey, don't stop believing.

Photo Captions in Order of Appearance:
1. Jonathan Cain plays piano while discussing his lyrical
inspirations. Photo courtesy of Krisp Photography.
2. The guitar Clark painted for Jonathan, photo courtesy of Clark.
3. Clark Hipolito pictured holding the painted guitar accompanied by Temple Phipps, Mandy Tamplin,
   Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod and wife, with Jonathan Cain and his wife Paula.  Photo courtesy of Krisp Photography.

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Jewel's Formals - An Accessory to Confidence

Jewel's Formals - An Accessory to Confidence

Jewel's Formals - An Accessory to Confidence

For as long as I can remember, Jewel's has been a beacon of cloth and color on the corner of Market and Third in downtown Smithfield.  Through rain and sun and snow, the dazzling dresses in the window stand out to pedestrians and motorists like brightly wrapped presents. And without telling my age, the length of my memory is about how long this sophisticated shop has been around. Jewel's Formals has been in the formal business for 25 years. And they dress each client with a confidence born from over two decades of experience.
dress rackGuarding over the racks of dresses, a canvas mounted on a wall towards the back of the shop says, "without question the most important thing a girl wears is her confidence". With the same thought, Kim Johnson, owner of Jewel's, would tell you that it is not their service, their dresses, or their hard work that make a dress shine brighter than the rest, it is the woman wearing it. A winning dress does not create beauty, it enhances it.

But Jewel's certainly has winning dresses, or just perhaps winning clients. For the last 2 years in a row, but not for the first time, Jewel's has dressed both Miss North Carolina and Miss Teen North Carolina. In fact, a staggering estimated 30 girls in this year's Miss North Carolina pageant wore a Jewel's dress in the competition, out of 79 contestants. In addition, out of the top 5 Miss Teen North Carolina contestants, 4 of them were wearing a Jewel's dress in the competition.

The Crown(ed) Jewel

What exactly does this mean? Well, it means that Jewel's is a great place to purchase dresses for pageantry. In fact, it is a large part of their business. The second being prom. However, it does not mean that the particular Jewel's dress worn for the state pageants will also be worn in the Miss America competition. Kim explains that at the national level girls are provided with dress options from pre-selected pageant sponsors. So, Miss North Carolina 2015, Kate Peacock, will not be wearing her winning Jewel's dress at the Miss America Pageant. But, she may be wearing Jewel's attire to appearances and other functions.

What is important to remember though is that the girl chooses the dress. She selects the shop, the designer, the cut, and the color. Jewel's has a huge pageant business because an overwhelming number of contestants choose to purchase their dress at Jewel's. They have a reputation for fashion. A reputation that precedes them. Well-earned over time. And with time comes knowledge of the dress industry and the pageant industry.

Formal and Formidable

Jewel's carries around 25 designer labels at any given time, purchased from different fashion markets twice a kate peacockyear. The shop purchases upcoming fall fashion in the spring and upcoming spring fashion in the fall. Pageant season runs all year long with preliminaries starting in August and competitions running through May. A contestant could come into the shop at any time of the year looking for "the" dress. Though Jewel's is not a bridal boutique, they do offer prom, homecoming, military balls, and tuxedo rental expertise.

As for pageant knowledge, I learned that Miss North Carolina contestants often go with a safer, more conservative dress - nothing too revealing - and teen contestants have historically stayed away from the colors black and red. However, Kim acknowledged that there is proof in the winner's circle that this un-written rule seems to be shifting.

You can benefit from all this knowledge, plus professional and friendly service at Jewel's. Even if you aren't in the market for a pageant dress, Jewel's will make you feel like a beauty queen for any occasion. And while Kim insists that it isn't the dress that makes the girl, a Jewel's dress does certainly make the perfect accessory to any girl's confidence. Just ask future Miss America (we hope) Kate Peacock!

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State Annual Singing Convention Brings Gold City to Benson

State Annual Singing Convention Brings Gold City to Benson

The Ninety-fifth State Annual Singing Convention will be held Friday, June 26, Saturday, June 27, and Sunday, June 28, 2015, in the “Singing Grove,” a beautiful city park at 400 East Main Street in Benson, North Carolina.  

Gold City Quartet will be this year's special guest performing on Saturday at approximately 7:00 p.m. Formed in 1980, many bands since have tried to copy their style and sound. In their own words the band has enjoyed, "a stellar career with numerous number one songs, fan and industry awards, and prestigious honors... yet remains down-to-earth, grounded in their southern roots, and committed to continuing their mission of delivering power-packed four-part harmonies and singing songs that are meaningful, entertaining, inspiring, and uplifting."
Gold CityThe group includes bass singer Chris West, baritone Daniel Riley, lead singer Chip Pullen, and tenor Robert Fulton. The dynamic vocal range lends itself to a vibrant musical sound. Gold City has continually been embraced by radio and their fans, leading to number one songs in each of the last four decades, their most recent being "Peter James and John" in 2012. The Benson Singing Grove will certainly be filled with sound next weekend. For more information on Gold City Quartet, visit www.goldcityqt.com.

A Weekend Full of Song

Adoration Quartet will be opening for Gold City at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday night. Many other talented semi-professional and amateur groups will appear during the weekend presented in thirty minute concerts on Friday, June 26, starting at 7 p.m.:  Full Reliance, The Hinshaw Family, Master’s Hands,  Hearts Song , Trinity Quartet, and The Griffins (order of appearance and times may vary).
State SingCompetition is on both Saturday and Sunday with junior and senior groups including duets, trios, quartets, families, and church choirs competing for trophies beginning at 2 p.m. All groups are welcome and encouraged to sing in the contests.

There is no entry fee to compete in the contests. No admission is charged, and people are encouraged to bring a lawn chair. The State Annual Singing Convention, Inc. is a non-profit organization and all officers, directors, and staff are volunteers., www.gospelsingingconvention.org.


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Sweet Southern Peach Season is in Swing

Sweet Southern Peach Season is in Swing

Sweet Southern Peach Season is in Swing

Thompson Orchards
Let's talk about something that every southerner loves. It's not just a fruit. It's a type of person. You don't just eat it. You become it. To quote Southerner, and fellow North Carolinian, Sarah Addison Allen, “She was so Southern that she cried tears that came straight from the Mississippi, and she always smelled faintly of cottonwood and peaches.”

The taste of a peach recalls from the memory the swing and slap of a closing screen door, the lazy hum of insect wings, and the feeling of sweat cooling on top of sun-warmed skin. Peaches are juicy, sweet, soft, and fuzzy. Peaches are gracious, delightful, witty, and spirited. And at Thompson Orchards in Johnston County, the peaches are ripe.

Thompson is locally owned and operated, located in Four Oaks, NC at 4301 US Highway 701 South. Today through Sunday is opening weekend for the season. Thompson has peaches, produce, and even peach ice cream. You can check out their Facebook page here.

Peach Recipes

Peach Frozen YogurtIt's getting hotter outside as the first day of summer approaches. Southerners know that a good way to cool off is with a frozen concoction. After you've tried, and maybe re-tried, the delicious and creamy peach ice cream at Thompson Orchards try making your own. We've got links to the recipes below.

You love peach ice cream, but you're also trying to watch the ole' caloric intake. Hey, we get it. Try making Frozen Peach Yogurt. Full flavor, but with less guilt.

So you want a little more pizzazz in your peach. Try making White Peach Sherbet. Perfect for those humid southern afternoons and evenings. We guarantee that your taste buds will melt right along with this delightful dessert.

We feel certain that a few of you are at this very moment lamenting your time constraints. You're supposed to be front porch sitting, pool side sipping, and just generally enjoying your summer. So, here's the quick (and healthy) way to feel like you experienced some sort of combination of peach and ice - Peach Smoothies. Plus, smoothies are in.
If you have really given up on doing something peachy in the kitchen, and who could blame you, then here is the ultimate in I-don't-care-because-it's-summer peach recipes. A Peach Mojito. Don't tell us you're too "busy" to make a mojito. With peaches.

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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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Beer Wine & Shine Trail

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


Meeting Planners

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


Group Tour Operators

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


Hotel Packages

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


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