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North Carolina Celebrates 2019 as the 'Year of Music'

A wealth of sounds from a deep musical lineage rises across North Carolina as the state celebrates 2019 as the Year of Music. With leadership from the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and N.C. Humanities Council, Come Hear NC includes performances, song-sharing sessions, live streaming events, artist interviews and special projects along with such hallmark festivals as MerleFest, Wide Open Bluegrass and the North Carolina Folk Festival. Oxford American magazine’s  North Carolina Music Issue (you can order it online) serves as an introduction to a long list of groundbreaking artists that runs from Nina Simone and John Coltrane to Earl Scruggs, James Taylor, Link Wray and Rhiannon Giddens. Learn more at

Wright Brothers Memorial Visitor Center Reopens With New Exhibits

After two years of restoration work, the visitor center at the Wright Brothers National Memorial reopened Oct. 20 with all-new exhibits that reflect the journey as well as the achievement of first flight. Interactive displays reveal an itimate look at Wilbur and Orville Wright, their inspirations and setbacks on the road to flight, why they chose Kitty Hawk for their experiments, and key people in their lives. A 16-screen video wall displays images of the brothers, their flying machines, scenes of flight and inspirational quotes. The lifesize replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer, which had been on view in Raleigh during the restoration, returned to the visitor center (the original is at the Smithsonian), which was named a National Historic Landmark in 2001. 

Asheville to Inaugurate Signature Food Festival

As a destination well-loved by culinary travelers and beer lovers, Asheville unites celebrated chefs, beverage craftsmen and other artisans for Chow Chow, an immersive festival celebrating makers who bring people to the table. The inaugural event, set for Sept. 12-15, includes tastings and chef demonstrations plus hands-on experiences that connect participants to the stories behind Asheville's approach to preparing and sharing meals. Watch for details to unfold at

New Ferry Route to Serve Travelers to Ocracoke

Beginning in May 14, the N.C. Ferry System will add a passenger-only route from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke’s Silver Lake Harbor, giving visitors a car-free way to explore the island’s central village. Travelers can reserve seats aboard the 98-seat Ocracoke Express Passenger Ferry instead of waiting in line for the vehicle-and-passenger ferry, which docks 12 miles from the village. Upon arrival in Ocracoke, visitors can get around the 4-square-mile village on foot, rent bicycles or golf carts, or board a free shuttle. Ocracoke, the southernmost stretch of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, is known for its beach, which has topped Dr. Beach’s annual list, and as Blackbeard's last hangout.

Carowinds Debuts Double-Launch Coaster

Roller-coaster junkies gain a 14th reason to visit Carowinds in 2019: a double-launch coaster called Copperhead Strike, which anchors a new Blue Ridge Mountains-themed area inspired by Western North Carolina's landscapes and lore. With its five inversions, Copperhead Strike delivers low-to-the-ground intensity in contrast to the headline-making heights and speeds of the best-known Carowinds coasters, 2010's Intimidator (232 feet, top speed 80 mph) and 2015's Fury 325 (325 feet, top speed 95 mph). The ride's first launch goes from 0 to 42 mph in 2.5 seconds, the second from 35 to 50 mph in 2 seconds. Carowinds, which opened in 1973, ranked No. 7 on Time's 2018 list of America's best amusement parks. 

Mustang Owner’s Museum Targets April 17 for Opening

On the 55th anniversary of the original pony car’s debut, the Mustang Owner’s Museum in Concord opens with a four-day celebration that includes a “Year of the Mustang” event at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a hall of fame induction ceremony, and an attempt to break the Guinness World’s Record for a Mustang parade. Rising in a destination known for motorsports, the museum has 42,500 square feet for displays, a media library conference room and theater. Filmed with Steve McQueen, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner and other leading men behind the wheel, the Mustang has inspired one of the largest and most loyal fan bases in the automotive world.

Epicenter Festival Ushers in Rebirth of Rockingham Speedway

More than five years after hosting its last NASCAR event, Rockingham Speedway finds new life as the Rock Entertainment Complex. The track's new owners aim to bring back racing and bring in festivals and concerts, starting with May 10-12's Epicenter festival with headliners Korn, Tool and Foo Fighters. In four decades of hosting NASCAR Cup Series events, the Rock is best known for 2004's Subway 400, when Matt Kenseth beat rookie Kasey Kahne by 0.010 seconds in one of NASCAR's closest finishes ever. The speedway, which is on U.S. 1 near U.S. 74 about 80 miles east of Charlotte, was also used in the films "Days of Thunder,"  "3: The Dale Earnhardt Story" and "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby."

Raleigh to Remain Home to IBMA's World of Bluegrass Through 2021

The International Bluegrass Music Association has extended its lease on Raleigh for the World of Bluegrass through 2021. The gathering, which has unfolded in the Capital City since 2013, includes a weekday business conference accompanied  by 200 showcase performances; an awards show; and the weekend's Wide Open Bluegrass, the world's largest urban bluegrass festival with free Streetfest performances and ticketed Main Stage concerts. 2019's event is Sept. 24-28.

Movies, TV Projects Mark Major Anniversaries

"Dawson's Creek," "Bull Durham" and other filmed-in-North Carolina projects mark their anniversaries in 2018, inviting viewers to visit scene-stealing landmarks and scenery. Here's a rundown:

  • “Brainstorm” (1983): Douglas Trumbull’s film is best known for being Natalie Wood’s last. While it was in production, the actress drowned on a weekend excursion with husband Robert Wagner and co-star Christopher Walken. The science fiction film, which won a Saturn Award for Louise Fletcher, included shots of the Wright Brothers National Memorial and the Ocracoke Lighthouse as well as scenes filmed at Pinehurst and Research Triangle Park.

  • “Bull Durham” (1988): Producer Thomas Mount chose his hometown as the setting for the classic baseball romance, which was written and directed by Ron Shelton. Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins starred in the film, which turned the real Durham Bulls into the most famous team in Minor League baseball. Raleigh, Asheville, Burlington, Wilson and Greensboro also saw film action.

  • “The Fugitive” (1993): Tommy Lee Jones won an Oscar for his portrayal of the marshal tracking down Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford).  Film travelers can see Cheoah Dam, where Kimble takes a giant leap, and wrecked train, which filmmakers left in place on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad’s Tuckasegee River Excursion from Bryson City to Dillsboro.

  • “Dawson’s Creek” (1998-2003): North Carolina native Kevin Williamson created this teen drama starring James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Joshua Jackson and Michelle Williams. Production was based in the Wilmington area with additional shoots in Southport, Durham and Chapel Hill.

  • “One Tree Hill” (2003-2012): Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty and Hilarie Burton were among the stars of the series, which also was based in Wilmington

  • "Nights in Rodanthe" (2008): Richard Gere and Diane Lane take top billing, but the movie's real star might be the Inn at Rodanthe. And in a grand gesture worthy of North Carolina novelist Nicholas Sparks, the house was saved from the sea (plan well and you can rent it for your stay). Follow this ready-made trail from the Outer Banks to Wilmington, then continue to Southport, the setting and main location for "Safe Haven," celebrating its fifth anniversary in 2018.

Visitors Can Again Ride Through the Mountain at Chimney Rock

Building an elevator inside a 315-foot granite peak ranks as a monumental feat of ingenuity and engineering. And fixing one is no walk in the park. But after nearly five years of repairs and power system upgrades, the elevator at Chimney Rock Park is back operation in time for travelers to watch Santa on the Chimney in December. The elevator offers a 32-second ride to the Sky Lounge Gift Shop & Deli. From there, 44 steps lead to the top and a sweeping view of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure. For hearty view-seekers, the alternate route — 491 steps on the Outcroppings Trail — has its own rewards, with numerous scenic stops along the way. 

Greensboro to Host 2019 World Irish Dancing Championships

Five thousand dancers from more than 30 countries are traveling to Greensboro to compete in the 2019 World Irish Dancing Championships. About 25,000 spectators are expected to watch as dancers age 10 to adult compete in solo and team performances in various style. Greensboro is the third U.S. city to host these Olympics of Irish dance, which the Irish Dancing Commission (An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha) began staging in 1970. Five years later, Chicago native Michael Flatley of "Riverdance" and "Lord of the Dance" fame became the first American to win a World Irish Dance title. The 2019 championships take place April 14-21, which by tradition coincides with Holy Week.


Food Halls Rise in the Research Triangle Area, Charlotte

In the space of a year (give or take), North Carolina’s food hall count will have risen from one to seven as part of an indie food movement packed with culinary diversity. Here’s a newest-to-oldest rundown:

  • Durham Food Hall (opening soon): In the 12,000-squre-foot food hall at Liberty Warehouse Apartments, visitors can choose from 10 vendors including Locals Seafood Market & Oyster Bar, Napoli Pizza and Gelato, Lula & Sadie’s (seasonal-Southern), Old North Meats and Provisions, Liturgy Beverage and Ex-Voto Cocina Nixtamal. The location is in Durham's Central Park neighborhood, home of the Durham Farmers Market and other spots of culinary interest.
  • Optimist Food Hall, Charlotte (opening soon): Part of a retail, restaurant and office space development, the food hall will house about 15 vendors in 20,000 square feet. The lineup includes Aix Rotisserie, Under Current Coffee, Papi Queso, Bao & Broth (ramen and buns), and a tasting room for Morganton-based Fonta Flora Brewery. Just north of the City Center, Optimist Hall can be reached by LYNX Light Rail. 
  • S&W Artisanal, Asheville (partially open): A jazz club and a cocktail bar, both with enticing food menus, are welcoming patrons to the S&W Building, an Art Deco gem designed by Douglas Ellington. A bakery, broth and noodle shop, and other dining spots are yet to come.
  • Transfer Co. Food Hall, Raleigh (partially open): With 43,000 square feet, the downtown development will include about 20 vendors, including Che Empanadas, Chhote's (Mumbai street food), Bul Box (Asian), a second location for Asheville's Burial Beer, Sweet Peas Urban Gardens, and the collaborative Locals Oyster Bar and Benchwarmers Bagels. Still to come: Saxapahaw General Store (a grocery oasis) and other vendors.
  • Morgan Street Food Hall & Market, Raleigh (August 2018): The 22,000-square-foot space downtown includes 20 culinary concepts such as Cousins Maine Lobster, Cow Bar (artisan burgers), Carroll’s Kitchen (non-profit dedicated to fighting homelessness for women through culinary training) and Hook & Cleaver (boutique butcher/fresh food market) as well as two bars, including one with landscaped patio space. 
  • Blue Dogwood Public Market, Chapel Hill (June 2018). The 4,000-square-foot space in the heart of the college town hosts 12 permanent food vendors including Pizelle Bakery (gluten-free sweets and savories), Soul Cocina (Latin American-inspired, plant-based fare), Left Bank Butchery (whole animal butcher shop), Rumi Persian Café and Chocolatay Confections. 
  • 7th Street Public Market, Charlotte (2012): Nonprofit market with a mission to promote local and regional farmers, food artisans, and entrepreneurs. Vendors at the Uptown market include Pure Pizza, Not Just Coffee, Tanks Tap, Bonsai Fusion and Rico's Acai.
Asheville Museum to Return With Historic Face, New Space

Three long years after the scaffolding went up, the Asheville Art Museum will reopen in a transformed space that honors its landmark building and welcomes the future with new light-bathed galleries, theater space, and a rooftop sculpture terrace and café. Blending historic and contemporary elements, the $24 million project restores the 1926 Pack Memorial Library while addressing the museum's role as a centerpiece of Asheville culture. Among the eye-catching features in the design by Ennead Architects are north-facing window with intriguing inside/outside views and punctured metal panels that will allow light to spill onto the plaza. The 68,000-square-foot building is set to open in spring with “Appalachia Now! An Interdisciplinary Survey of Contemporary Art in Southern Appalachia.”

New Ballparks Open for 2019 Baseball Season

Fayetteville and High Point, cities with a measure of baseball glory, bring professional teams to the field this spring at brand new ballparks. In Fayetteville, where Babe Ruth scored his first home run as a pro and picked up his nickname, the Fayetteville Baseball Stadium & Entertainment Venue becomes the home of the Woodpeckers, a Class A affiliate of the Houston Astros. North Carolina's 11th Minor League team, the Woodpeckers played two seasons at Campbell University while waiting for the downtown stadium to be built. Opening day is April 18. In High Point, where Hall of Famer Luke Appling was born, the Rockers play their first home game at BB&T Point on May 2. The new team is a member of the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, which has pioneered rules to speed up play.

Eleanor Talley
Public Relations Manager
Kelly Renz
J Public Relations


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