SENC Magazine - Spring 2023

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Experience the thrill of flight at Wings Over Wayne

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Wings Over Wayne Air Show


Jim Sills


Ena Sellers


Lauren Branch

Annesophia Richards

Rebecca J. Whitman


Ena Sellers


Norma Miller

Spring is in the air, so are opportunities to discover fun new places

It is time to ditch the heavy winter layers, pack your weekend bags and let’s enjoy everything this spring has to o er. From sunsets at a remote river to sunrises in a shing charter, adventure and excitement are just around the corner!

In this edition of SENC Magazine, we are highlighting a handful of fun and unique places to visit, along with some cool people that make the magic happen! Our rst stop is the breathtaking ancient Bald Cypress Forest of the Black River. Back in February, I was contacted by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation as they were getting the word out about their fundraiser For the love of the Black River, needles to say I was beyond excited when I learned about this gorgeous hidden spot, nestled in the sleepy waters of the Three Sisters Swamp between Bladen and Pender counties, and only accessible by water.

Our next stop is Retroscape Video Lounge in Wilmington. This unique shop can be described as a gamers’ paradise as you can nd almost “every video game imaginable since they were pretty much invented” as Annesophia Richards said to me when she pitched the story idea. Retroscape welcoming vibe, features old-school décor, and vintage games from the early 1970s Atari Pong all the way through today’s favorite Virtual Reality games.

Another cool place to visit is The Warehouse in Mount Olive. At The Warehouse you can take your date for an exciting game of paintball. Friends and families can play pool, ping pong, and checkers or relax and hang out as you enjoy a scoop of your favorite dairy-free ice cream.

If you like a quiet pace, head to the Onslow County Museum this May through June as they will be hosting Crossroads: Change in Rural America, a Smithsonian traveling exhibit highlighting rural America.

For those who are looking for ways to pay it forward or fun for a good cause, check out Reelin’ for Research and help this non-pro t land a cure for childhood cancer by participating in this year’s shing tournament in Morehead City, N.C. Next on our lineup is the Wings Over Wayne Air Show, a biennial event that brings thousands of people to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro to watch the famous U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels drills, and aerobatic performances. Our next feature is Sampson County’s Barn Quilt Trail. Famous not only for their symbolism and unique designs, the wooden barn quilts can be seen peppered throughout Sampson County and beyond.

As you explore the outdoors, keep an eye out for ecoEXPLORE signs. Developed by The North Carolina Arboretum the ecoEXPLORE program promotes science exploration among children, encouraging them to explore the outdoors as they learn about di erent animal species and their environments. Learn about generational farming with the Stricklands, a father and son duo, who are part of a 7th generation, diversi ed crop and livestock family farm operation with roots in Wayne, Sampson, and Duplin counties dating back to 1861.

For more adventures to enjoy this spring, check out Play Dates on page 44. We hope you enjoy reading this issue of SENC as much as we enjoyed creating it for YOU.

4 | Southeastern North Carolina Magazine
Southeast North Carolina Magazine is a publication of the Duplin Times and APG Media of Eastern NC. Contents may not be reproduced without the consent of the publisher.

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Morehead City


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New Bern
Southeastern North Carolina Magazine | 7 Discover the ancient Bald Cypress Forest of the Black River 8 18 The Warehouse Brings entertainment to Mount Olive 28 8 Retroscape video games galore 12 Play Dates Find out what’s going on up and down southeastern NC 44 EcoEXPLORE Science exploration with kid-friendly technology 38 Generational farming 40 Comedy at UMO 43 Wings Over Wayne Air Show 28 Reelin’ for Research Helping land a cure for childhood cancer 26 Smithsonian traveling exhibit to visit Onslow County Museum 24 Explore the Barn Quilt Trail 34



Dating back more than 2,600 years the majestic bald cypress trees of the Black River are a living landmark tucked away in the sleepy, serpent-like channels of the river between Bladen and Pender County lines.

The ancient forest can be admired in its full splendor by navigating the sun-dappled waters of the Three Sisters Swamp where hundreds of old bald cypresses pepper the stream.

Known for their giant knobby roots that intertwine in a maze of gnarled and scaly ridges, the colossus inhabitants of the Black River were discovered more than four decades ago by David Stahle, a researcher at

the University of Arkansas, who was conducting a study.

For the past 10 years, Charles Robbins, chairman of the Ancient Bald Cypress Consortium Board, has contributed to the analysis of the bald cypress trees and led people on educational, science-based adventures, according to the North Carolina Wildlife Federation.

“Robbins has an intimate knowledge of the Black River and the wildlife species – such as egrets, osprey,

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Story by Ena Sellers
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Photos by Curtis Krueger

blue herons, crabs, fish, and alligators – that call it home,” wrote NCWF in a release.

In February, the NCWF raised just over $5,200 through For the Love of the Black River Campaign, which offered donors a chance to win a paddle trip guided by Robbins, where five

lucky winners will get to take in the breathtaking natural habitat of the monolithic cypress trees.

“Nearly 150 people donated to NCWF’s campaign to raise money for the Black River,” said Bates Whitaker with the NCWF.

“Some people are drawn to tears when they see it. Such an ancient place really has an effect on people,” said Robbins. “Most people come for the science around these trees, but

when you come in here, you really get how old they are… you can feel it.”

According to Manley Fuller, NCWF VP of Conservation Policy, a large portion of the Black River is protected but a lot of the watershed is not. Risks to the ancient forest and its water quality include logging in the surrounding area as well as water pollution.

“The forest helps minimize strong winds, provide flood control, and maintain high regional water tables. The tops of the trees provide nesting sites for large birds like herons and bald eagles. A diversity of freshwater fish call the river home, from rare Broadtail Madtom to more common game fish like Largemouth Bass,” said Fuller. “Many paddle the river and some attempt to navigate its intricate network of waterways. However you visit, you never forget the experience.”

The Three Sisters Swamp is managed and protected by The Nature Conservancy. While the ancient forest is a magnificent area to explore, this remote area is not recommended for inexperienced paddlers as there are no marked routes, and water levels can fluctuate making it challenging to maneuver a kayak or canoe.

Water access can be found at Henry’s Landing, also approximately 5 miles north of Beatty’s Bridge on Ivanhoe Road in Pender County, and approximately 1.2 miles east of the 11/53 bridge off Long View Road just outside Atkinson.

Guided tours are available through Cape Fear River Adventures.

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Most people come for the science around these trees, but when you come in here, you really get how old they are… you can feel it.
Ancient Bald Cypress Consortium Photo
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Photos by Curtis Krueger
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Photos by Pierce Productions

For Dylan Pierce, some of the best memories from his youth revolved around hanging out with friends and playing video games. Now, as the owner of Retroscape Video Lounge in Wilmington, Dylan is on a mission to create a space where young and old can play, have fun, and feel like a kid again, one game at a time.

Growing up in Michigan, Dylan and his wife Ann Marie wanted to experience something completely new and signi cantly warmer, so the two moved to the Carolinas in 2016 right a er graduating college. Ann Marie’s

love of Nicholas Sparks novels, mixed with Dylan’s interest in the video and lm industry, made Wilmington the perfect spot to settle down and start a new life together. They quickly found an apartment and started new jobs, Anne-Marie as a middle school teacher and Dylan in the service industry. The couple also continued pursuing their love of travel, which included multiple road trips across the country in a van with their dog and cat in tow. It was on one such road trip in 2021 that the idea of a video game lounge rst came to Dylan, at a time when he was feeling burnt out from his job and wanted to make a change.

“We went by Savannah and saw a place on the main strip that had comics, toys, and video games, and it was lled with people,” says Dylan. “It seemed really cool and had a great vibe, and it gave me that spark that I think I’ve had in my head the whole time.”

Dylan’s love of video games goes back over 20 years, as he says he grew up playing Sega Genesis before moving

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Many of us would give anything to be a kid again. Reminiscing about the good old days of childhood, we often wish we could go back in time and relive it all over.
I’ve always appreciated video games, because it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you’re doing, or what walk of life you’re from, they’re always there as a safe place that you can come to when you’re stressed, or not feeling too good can play video games to relax, and that seems to be the case for many di erent people.

on to future systems like the Nintendo 64, PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox 360. Over time, he saw how much the games changed and advanced, but what he loved most about them remained the same through the years.

“I’ve always appreciated video games, because it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you’re doing, or what walk of life you’re from, they’re always there as a safe place that you can come to when you’re stressed, or not feeling too good. You can play video games to relax, and that seems to be the case for many di erent people.”

As the idea for Retroscape began to take shape, Dylan knew he wanted his new venture to stand apart from other video game businesses. He came up with the lounge concept as a way of making his location less transactional and more relationship-based.

“With most video game shops you come in, you buy something, and then you leave, but I wanted something related to the way we used to play with our friends,” says Dylan. “There are arcades with a bunch of standup ma-

chines where you play with tokens, but there really wasn’t anything out there that I’d seen where you can actually sit down, hang out and play like we did back in the day in each other’s living rooms and basements.”

Dylan found an available property for his business just four blocks away from his home near downtown Wilmington. Located in the city’s Soda Pop District, he knew the area was up and coming, and being able to walk to work every day was an added bonus. Instead of focusing on foot tra c or choosing

a location based on tourist visibility, Dylan wanted Retroscape to be in a spot where he could attract locals to come and play. The couple signed a lease in February of 2021, began buying up as many games, gaming systems and nostalgic memorabilia to ll the lounge as they could, and by late March, Retroscape o cially opened its doors.

Visitors nd a wide array of games ranging from the early 1970’s Atari Pong all the way through modern day VR games. The vibe is reminiscent of lazy days spent hanging out with

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My primary focus has been the retro video games because of the lack of access to them, so I wanted to give people a place to play them again with friends or introduce their kids to some of their favorite games from the past. Bringing those memories back is something people love to do.
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friends in each other’s houses, with comfy couches, TVs, old-school décor, vintage games and clothing all around, plus a selection of snacks and sodas to keep everyone happy.

“I’m constantly improving the shop every day, making sure I treat everyone right and that they want to come back,” says Dylan. “My primary focus has been the retro video games because of the lack of access to them, so I wanted to give people a place to play them again with friends or introduce their kids to some of their favorite games from the past. Bringing those memories back is something people love to do.”

In addition to standard hourly rates for play, more frequent visitors can purchase monthly memberships with unlimited play for $25 per month. Other options include a 20-hour gamer pass that can be used anytime and shared with other people. Retroscape also o ers birthday parties, summer camps, and Pokémon trading events. Weekly gaming tournaments are another big draw, something Dylan has worked hard to make possible by partnering with other local businesses

as a way to cross-promote and support each another.

“We set up at other places so people can hang out at a di erent venue

and still play the games they love,” says Dylan. “Mario Kart is always a favorite, because it’s a very friendly game, and for people who don’t know how to play, it can be picked up quickly, but it’s also competitive, so it’s fun either way.”

As for the future, Dylan hopes to one day move his business into a larger space, potentially even setting up in a house where di erent rooms can be dedicated to di erent eras while continuing to give visitors the comfortable feeling of being at home. He intends to hold true to the two words that have inspired his lounge’s name, keeping things ‘retro’ with his constant hunt at local thri stores and ea markets for games from the past missing from his collection, while o ering people an ‘escape’ from everyday life in which to play them.

“I want to give people from all walks of life an escape where they can come, hang out, be themselves and not have to worry about anything, because when you come here, you’re here to have fun and play video games,” says Dylan. “Something I want for anyone and everyone is to come to a place where they feel safe and welcome.”

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I want to give people from all walks of life an escape where they can come, hang out, be themselves and not have to worry about anything, because when you come here, you’re here to have fun and play video games.
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The Warehouse

Brings unique entertainment to Mount Olive

But students and local residents have had few places to turn for local entertainment. Many grew up parking in the Rose’s parking lot to hang out on nights and weekends. One of Mount Olive’s newest businesses, The Warehouse, hopes to change all that.

Located at 506 North Breazeale Avenue in Mount Olive, The Warehouse is an alcohol free family environment with paintball, ping pong, checkers, pool, coffee, dairy-free ice cream, Internet, and comfortable places to sit and meet with friends.

“We want to be a place where people can come and hangout and just be,” says Owner Lester Rector.

Lester Rector and his wife Holly moved to Mount Olive in June 2019 to become the Campus Pastor for UMO as well as the Directors of UMO’s renowned acapella choir, Carolina Sound. The Rectors had their own successful career in indie music as

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When people think about Mount Olive, N.C., they think of a charming small town, known for its an annual Pickle Festival, and for being home to the University of Mount Olive, both of which attract an incredibly diverse population.
Story and photos by Rebecca Whitman
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Lester and Holly prior to coming to Mount Olive. They had the opportunity to work with artists like the Katinas, manage Voices of Lee, work with Disney, and travel through large and small locations.

“It doesn’t cost nearly as much to produce nowadays as it used to. You can cut the overhead and make hits in your own room. Music is all about connections if you are ever going to grow beyond your community. If there is any downfall to being an indie artist, it is the lack of professionalism. There are a lot of hacks mixed into the sea of artists creating now,” Lester says.

“My wife and I felt like part of the reason we had to come here from Orlando was to invest in the university where we work but also in the community,” Lester said. They revamped all of campus ministry then began to recruit and develop Carolina Sound. Later, driving around the area, Lester saw the location that would become their community outreach. The building had been a gas and service station in the 50s and 60s then it turned into Charles Swinson’s cabinet shop. For almost a decade, the building sat vacant, fell into disrepair, and was overrun by rats. Then owner, Gerald Bell, began making repairs and renovating it to rent it, and the Rectors stepped in. For a year, they rented it and continued to transform

it with a vision for what it could be. In March 2022, the Rectors bought the building completely and opened to the public that August.

The Warehouse is actually part of a three-phase plan led by the Rectors’ non-profit, Face to Face Worship, Inc. The vision for this part of the plan was inspired by Pins Mechanical in Nashville–a bar that offers similar games but is not family friendly past a certain time of night. “The simplest things can be fun in the right environment,” Lester said.

Phase Two of the plan was to launch five need-based programs: Counseling for children and families, Health and wellness nutrition,

Spiritual counseling, Financial counseling, and Strategic planning for businesses. “The goal is to bring in people who are experts in their field and offer a night where anyone can come and hear the expert share their particular thing. Then if anyone wants counseling, we would be a facilitator for connecting them to the right people to help them,” Lester said.

Phase Three of the plan will be to launch a place of worship where people can enjoy the community and discipleship elements already established and have a place of worship as well.

“Our route for ministry is differ-

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We want to be a place where people can come and hangout and just be.

ent. We feel that there are already enough Sunday morning gatherings. My goal is just to engage with people, man,” Lester said. “506 is our address but it is also our mission. It comes out of the place in John where Jesus asked the man at the pool in Bethesda if he wanted to be well. We want people to feel like they can release everything negative they are dealing with right now and just come in here and find a place of refuge and encouragement… There has always been negativity in the world but accessibility of one over the other has changed over time. It seems now that all you ever hear–what sells more–is bad news. Good news seems harder to find. There is nothing new under the sun, it’s just more downloadable.”

The Warehouse is already a popular

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place for meetings, studying, and games. The paintball course is also steadily booked. “Our paintball park is a pay and play all day fast course that is wide open with all in atable bunkers. You can never memorize the course because we move them every week. We are always trying to keep it as fresh as possible,” Lester said.

People can support the vision of The Warehouse by either making a tax free donation to the non-profit, or by purchasing from any of the for profit entities in The Warehouse: Real McCoy paintball and Cafe 506 coffee with AMR non-dairy ice cream. To see upcoming events and videos inside The Warehouse, check out their posts on Facebook and Instagram.

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The CSS Neuse Civil War Musuem offers state of the art exhibits tha t invite visitors to learn about the ironclad gunboa t. The Confedera te Na vy launched the Neuse in an ill-fa ted attempt to gain control of the lower Neuse River and the occupied city of New Bern.

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Smithsonian traveling exhibit comes to Onslow County Museum

The Onslow County Museum is excited to be one of six museums selected to host a Smithsonian traveling exhibit highlighting rural America from Saturday, May 6 through June 9.

The exhibition, Crossroads: Change in Rural America, examines the evolving landscape of rural America.

“We are so excited to have been selected to be a host venue for this traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian. We will be having our grand opening reception on Saturday, May

6,” said Lisa Whitman-Grice, Onslow County Museum Director.

This traveling exhibit o ers an opportunity for small and rural communities “to look at their own paths to highlight the changes that a ected their fortunes over the past century. The exhibit explores how rural America embraces the notion that their citizens

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Photos by Charles A. Farrell from the Sarah Lea Brock Collection at the OCM. Circa 1938.

and their cultural uniqueness are important assets” and invites participants to re ect on the stories of rural America’s successes as there is much that can be learned from examining the past.

“This exhibit is perfect for our area as it speaks to the changes that are occurring in rural America and how communities are responding to that change,” said Whitman-Grice. “The Museum will be working with our visitors as they go through the exhibit to speak to their experiences and observations about these changes and invite them to share their stories with us.”

According to Melanie Moore Richeson with North Carolina Humanities, one of the museum’s planned projects for the traveling exhibit that they produce post-Crossroads is to create a “then” and “now” of these intersections and other crossroads in the county.

Whitman-Grice added that the local version of Crossroads that they will create addresses the same themes found in the Smithsonian exhibit, explaining that it will address “identity, land, community, persistence, managing change, and what that means to our region.”

“With so many North Carolinians living and working throughout rural North Carolina, we are excited to tour

this exhibit within our state,” said Sherry Paula Watkins, Executive Director of North Carolina Humanities. “Rural looks di erent depending on where you are in North Carolina, from the western mountains to the eastern coastline.”

In 2022, Crossroads: Change in Rural America toured through Arizona, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, making its last stop at the Onslow County Museum in Richlands.

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This exhibit is perfect for our area as it speaks to the changes that are occurring in rural America and how communities are responding to that change. The Museum will be working with our visitors as they go through the exhibit to speak to their experiences and observations about these changes and invite them to share their stories with us.
Photo by Charles A. Farrell from the Sarah Lea Brock Collection at the OCM. Circa 1938. Photos by Charles A. Farrell from the Sarah Lea Brock Collection at the OCM. Circa 1938.


Helping land a cure for childhood cancer

For the past 15 years Reelin’ for Research has been putting together a fishing tournament to benefit the UNC Children’s - North Carolina Children’s Hospital and childhood cancer

research. This year’s Reelin’ for Research tournament will be held on May 6 in Morehead City, N.C.

An initiative that started in 2009 as means for Richard Montana to honor the memory of

his dad, Tony, an avid sherman who died of cancer, has grown into a yearround e ort to raise money for childhood cancer research.

This year’s Reelin’ for Research tournament will be held on May 6 in Morehead City, N.C.

An initiative that started in 2009 as means for Richard Montana to honor the memory of his dad, Tony, an avid sherman who died of cancer, has grown into a year-round e ort to raise money for childhood cancer research.

Photos by Maury Kennedy
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“We have raised 5.2 million dollars to date,” said Heather Barber a spokesperson with Reelin’ for Research. “With those funds, we have established a fellowship at UNCCH that is awarded annually to support research e orts. That fellowship has been funded into perpetuity so now funds raised go to support research projects/needs selected in conjunction with the hospital.”

According to Barber, last year the hospital renamed the treatment clinic to the Reelin’ for Research Pe-

diatric Hematology Oncology Clinic, “which is a tremendous honor,” said Barber. “They also did a minor renovation which included shing-theme decor which I think the kids really get a kick out of.”

She added that there is no age limit to compete, but charter boats may have their own rules.

Many of the shing teams fundraise for weeks or even months leading up to the tournament. The entry fee is $1,000, all of which is donated to the cause.

“The bulk of our fundraising comes from teams competing to raise the most money. It’s become much more competitive than the actual shing tournament!” Barber added.

Reelin’ for Research shared that they have many exciting things planned for the May 6 weekend “so sign yourself or your team up today and help LAND A CURE for childhood cancer.”

Registration for the tournament is open. For more information, email

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Experience the thrill of fighter jets showcasing their prowess at North Carolina’s largest public air show on May 20 and 21 at Seymour Johnson Air

Force Base in Goldsboro. Wings Over Wayne Air Show will kick off from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Gates will open at 8 a.m. and close at 5 p.m.

The free event will not only be featuring the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels demonstrating four-jet diamond formations and solo routines on the F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft but also but this year the Blue Angels will have the first female pilot, Lt. Amanda Lee, among the six selected officers who will fly the F/A-18 Super Hornet for the show.

World famous aerobatic pilot Rob

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Photos courtesy of Wings Over Wayne Air Show

Holland will be flying an MXS-RH, an all-carbon-fiber, single-seat aircraft with a roll rate well above 450 degrees per second.

Also, this year for the first time the air show will feature a STEM hangar with exhibitors in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math from across the country. The 40,000 sq. ft. hangar will showcase displays from government, industry, education, entertainment and defense. According to event organizers, the hands-on STEM event will have a big emphasis on robotics thanks to G-Force Robotics.

What started in 1947 as a way to help recruit service members and a means to grow the local economic impact of the base has evolved into a two-day event that brings in nearly 200,000 people. = ==

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Mach Point One Aviation Photography


Wings Over Wayne Air Show

When: May 20-21

Where: Seymour Johnson Air Force Base

Time: 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Gates open at 8 a.m. and close at 5 p.m.

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CSS Neuse Contact Paul Hill at or (910) 275-6257 for moreinformation. Ask about apprenticeship oppor tunities! LizHoward (910)275-6285 32 | Southeast North Carolina Magazine
Southeast North Carolina Magazine | 33
Photos courtesy of Wings Over Wayne Air Show


Barn Quilt Trail

If you drive through Sampson County, it is very likely that you will see at least one barn quilt.

Barn Quilts are very prevalent in the area, and are part of Sampson County’s history. They are so unique and popular that people from all over the U.S., have traveled barn quilt capitol of North Carolina, just to get one.

But what are barn quilts? These quilts are unique because they are made out of wood and are perfectly square. They are hand painted with colorful proportional shapes like circles, triangles, or squares, and on any given day, you might see them hanging on mailboxes, stores, businesses, and of course on old country barns.

There were originally around 20

quilts hanging around the county by the conjoined efforts of the Sampson Arts Council and the tourism department because several of them got together to form a committee. Then eventually the project fell off according to Director of Tourism Sheila BareFoot.

“When I came in 2016 it had stalled a little bit. No one was really

doing anything at the time, and I thought it would be a great time to start it back up. It’s just a beautiful symbolism of our cultural heritage that we have here in the county.”

Sheila met a woman from Autryville, Kelly Tew, that was doing art quilts after being inspired by the barn quilts she saw in the mountains. She decided to come back home and

Story by Lauren Branch
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Photo by Sampsom County

try one for herself, and now she does most of the barn quilts for the program. There are a few other independent artists that make and sell them also, but is the main one. Soon after the Quilt trail was born, she thought it would be a good idea to create the trail to showcase the works across the county and beyond, and to give more people a chance to see them.

“It’s been a very interesting project. I have learned a lot. It’s just the way that we bring art and folk art to our county.”

152 beautiful pieces are on display on the trail for people to enjoy, and is continually growing. In total there are 233 quilts across eight towns. She also keeps some on display at the Sampson Agri-Expo Building just in case someone wants to buy one while they are in there. Right now there are no guided trails, but the department is currently working on a project to create a day trip itinerary that visitors can access on their website. Sampson County’s signature quilt

was painted by Ruth Holland and was inspired by the Downtown Clinton’s Public Art Project, called “Milling Around.” The quilt incorporates different pieces of the heritage of the county such as the barns that represent farming and the barns that are located at the Sampson County History Museum. The earth tone colors help remind people of the agricultural heritage and their dependence on nature and the earth, and the overall design evokes memories of their

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Photos by Tew Barn Quilts

native American culture.

Sheila said they plan to hopefully start doing barn quilting classes one day. It is something that they are really interested in. Until then, people can purchase them from the agribusiness building directly and can have them custom made to their liking. Price varies based on size, difficulty, and the number of colors, but almost anything can be put on the quilts. On average you are looking at around $175-$200 for a 2x2 quilt. One memorable project that she remembers is a young woman who had the patterns from a quilt that her grandmother had made her and turned around and gave it as a gift right back to her grandmother as a barn quilt.

The barn quilt tour adds beauty and heritage to not only Sampson County and surrounding areas, but also to the lives of many people. It helps remind the community of who they are through quilts that represent family history, farming, agriculture, and the list goes on and on. They have been passed down from generation to generation, and will be a token of pride for many to come. The committee loves the saying “follow your art and your heart”, and that is what the trail is all about.

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ecoEXPLORE: Science exploration with kid-friendly technology

Looking for a free, fun and educational activity to engage the kids in? Look no more.

With hundreds of locations peppered throughout south eastern North Carolina, the ecoEXPLORE science program developed by The North Carolina Arboretum o ers children ages 5-13 a unique way to have fun and stay engaged while promoting remote collaboration, encouraging children to explore the outdoors.

According to Charlie Zimmerman, ecoEXPLORE coordinator, participants can help professional scientists understand changes in the environment and

see how these changes impact plants, animals and other natural resources by becoming citizen scientists.

The program combines science exploration with kid-friendly technology that encourages participants to take part in a special mission by submitting information that can be used by professional scientists.

Completing challenges allows children to obtain badges and earn points, to redeem prizes from echo meter bat detectors, microscopes, and binoculars to an iPod Touch.

“Kids can learn about our program and score extra points towards free eld tools of their own by observing nature,” said Zimmerman.

The ecoEXPLORE program is free to all children and families in North Car-

olina. In Duplin County ecoEXPLORE HotSpots can be found at Farrior Park at Boney Mill Pond, Joann Cowan Brown Botanical Garden, Dorothy Wightman Public Library, and Cabin Lake County Park.

Participants can explore by visiting any designated ecoEXPLORE HotSpot like the Farrior Park at Boney Mill Pond to nd wildlife species, including plants, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and birds, and share their ndings.

“The HotSpot sign is located on the Little Trail Loop, but pictures of wildlife can be taken anywhere,” said David Bizzell, Wallace Parks and Recreation Director.

Kids can help scientists by taking notes and photos of any species and uploading their ndings through their

38 | Southeast North Carolina Magazine
Photo courtesy of ecoEXPLORE

ecoEXPLORE pro le. A er the data submitted is approved, the information is shared with the iNaturalist Network which is used by scientists. Participants may use their own electronic device or check-out one available from their ecoEXPLORE LoanSpot. According to Zimmerman, Dorothy Wightman Public Library is an ecoEXPLORE LoanSpot where kids can checkout a Discovery Backpack with ecoEXPLORE eld tools for free. All ecoEXPLORE HotSpot signs have a QR code that people can scan to see what others have been nding in that area.

“There are HotSpots all over the state,” said Bizzell. “Their website ( has a map that shows all of the HotSpots available.”

Children can earn three types of badges. Field Season for the beginner level, which is recommended for ages 5 to 7; Field Focus, which is the intermediate level and is recommended for children ages 8 to 10; and Event Mission, which is the advanced level for ages 10 to 13.

While the program is not exclusive to homeschooling families, according to Zimmerman, “many of these groups have been especially avid participants in the program given the highly-structured, age-growth-oriented, and multi-seasonal learning model.”

“Our project has just recently passed the milestone of sharing 50,000 observations to iNaturalist, a global citizen science platform used by researchers around the world,” Zimmerman added.

To sign up for the ecoEXPLORE program or nd out the di erent HotSpots and LoanSpots nearby, visit www.

Dancing W

Father and son share inside look at generational farming

To sit a while with Garrett Strickland of Strickland Farming Partnership is to sit with a man so deeply entrenched in North Carolina that he can regurgitate 150 years of its history from a life that lived much of it.

“To know about the whole county, you have to be involved in politics and the agriculture community–which of course I was,” Garrett said in his signature guttural Southern drawl.

Garrett is a former Sampson County Commissioner and a Board Chairman of his family’s farming operation now. According to their website, Strickland Farming Partnership is a “progressive 7th generation diversi ed crop and livestock family farm operation. Garrett and his son Reggie still farm much of

the land their ancestors farmed as far back as 1861…in Wayne, Sampson, and Duplin counties farming corn, soybeans, wheat, tobacco, pickle cucumbers, and sweet potatoes and nishing over 22,000 swine each year for Prestage Farms and grow out over 120,000 turkeys for Butterball.”

Farming has changed a lot over the years because of the white rabbit of consumerism that farmers are always chasing.

“The population of the United States hit 100 million during my early lifetime. It’s 360 million now. The population of the world has gone from 5 billion to 7.5 billion. Land is being taken up for highways, housing developments, and shopping centers. We are feeding more

and more people on less land. The only way we can continue to do that is to increase the productivity of the basic crops we are growing. So much of the basic food of the world is based on two crops: corn and soybeans,” Garrett said.

Having more people to feed on less land is not the only problem farmers face today. The other threat is a global market with unequal standards.

“It used to be that we consumed all we made here. You could look around where you live and know all the crops there. Now other parts of the world determine what we grow more than we do. South America, Australia, and now Africa are large agricultural countries. Farms here average 1,000 acres while farms there average 10,000 and do not

folk 40 | Southeast North Carolina Magazine
Land is being taken up for highways, housing developments, and shopping centers. We are feeding more and more people on less land. The only way we can continue to do that is to increase the productivity of the basic crops we are growing.
Story and photos by Rebecca Whitman

have to comply with regulations and government oversight as much as we do,” Garrett explained. “Compliance makes us have a disadvantage in the world market because we can’t do it as cheaply as them. Where we can get ahead in the global market is with specialty crops like sweet potatoes and tobacco that only grow in limited locations. Another way is through partnerships with companies that need our products. The world’s largest producer of hogs, for example, is right here in Sampson and Duplin counties.”

Reggie Strickland is following his father’s example in terms of staying involved in all aspects of farming life. His passion is to keep the farm moving forward, but he does that rst by valuing his family. He will be the rst to tell you that his father is his “best friend,” his wife is his “secret weapon,” and his children are “his whole world.” Still farming keeps him on the road more times than not. Reggie stays busy traveling the country on the boards of various committees advocating for the quality of U.S. products as well as learning what

is new and upcoming in grain crops and other agricultural products. He not only knows cutting edge facts when they matter, but he nds time to promote education in all its forms from agriculture students in college to media tours of the farm or answering phone calls from other farmers needing advice.

One of the biggest things that the public can do to support agriculture today, according to both Reggie and Garrett, is to understand that farmers are good stewards of the land and the environment.

“We have a lot more interest invested in the land than other organizations outside of it,” they said.

The vision to diversify and expand the business really came from Reggie. He knew from an early age that he wanted to go into the family business, and he was excited to work hard and put in the time to make it grow. It was under his vision that the farm diversi ed into animal production as well as crops.

“You want to diversify but not past what you know you can control,” Garrett said. “When things are good, it is easy to

Call ahead to order: 910-298-9121 or 910-375-8121 &pick up at our Dr ive-Thr u 114 East Main St. Beulaville,NC Mon-Fr i 11am -8:00pm Southeast North Carolina Magazine | 41
Every generation is going to have hard times, but we get through it by mentoring and learning from each other. It is the bad times that show you what is important as well as who and what you can lean on…Everything that happens in life, good and bad, is a direct relation to your decisions and relationships with others.

over expand and outgrow your management abilities. Learn to use all the tools available to you such as insurance, leasing vs. purchasing, technology, etc. Make decisions a er you have made a list of the pros and cons of doing so.”

Farming is full of life lessons, and Garrett shared some of his.

“Every generation is going to have hard times, but we get through it by mentoring and learning from each other. It is the bad times that show you what is important as well as who and what you can lean on…Everything that happens in life, good and bad, is a direct relation to your decisions and relationships with others. If you have a disagreement with someone, you are responsible for going to them and correcting it. In life, it is important to learn how to take care of things and then shed them (don’t hold on to grievances).”

The Stricklands nd it very important to stay informed about scienti c and market research such as the altering of plants to be able to grow in di erent climates and produce higher yields. “I am always learning. It is important to me to be a lifelong learner. If we ever quit learning, we quit living,” Garrett

says. “Farming today is about studying the market and projecting growth for both the crops and the needs of the consumers. It isn’t just putting a seed in the ground and waiting. Most of the time, it is a well calculated risk and an educated guess mixed with a lot of faith.”

The Strickland Farming Partnership also leverages technology to help them make the most of their farm. GPS precision planting and equipment that creates eld records available via satellite are just part of the tools they use.

Farming is increasingly made di cult by politics and competition, but it is still the vital heart of our society. Ask any farmer today and they will tell you they do not own the land; they are simply caretakers of it. More than any other profession, farmers are keenly aware of the cycle of life. For farms to exist through generations in one family, however, there has to be a love of the land and a desire to continue in that way of life. It is the one concern that can bring both Strickland father and son to tears. “I hope that someone in our family will see t to carry forward caring for the land a er me or at least put it in a land trust to keep it agricultural,” they said.

42 | Southeast North Carolina Magazine
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Need agreat gift idea for that hard to buy person? Come by The Lighting Gallery and we can help you light up their holiday for Come Lighting Gallery 1144 US HWY.258 N. SUITE B, KINSTON, NC 28504 OPEN MONDAY - FRIDAY 8AM- 5PM

Comedic thought leader to headline at UMO this spring

Join the University of Mount Olive Alumni Association for an evening of laughter and music on Saturday, April 1. Entertainment will begin at 6 p.m. in Kornegay Arena with UMO’s premier acapella group, Carolina Sound, delighting audience members with their talents in song. Come-

dic thought-leader Michael Jr. will take the sage at 7 p.m.

Using comedy and dynamic storytelling, Michael Jr. brings laughter and encouragement to audiences all over the world as he inspires audiences to discover and activate their purpose. His unique skillset has landed him on sates like NBC’s Tonight Show, TEDx Talks, and Jimmy Kimmel Live. You can find him in Sony Pictures’ feature film War Room, as well as

starring roles in Selfie Dad, Laughing On Purpose, and More Than Funny.

Spend an evening laughing and smiling with old and new friends, at the University of Mount Olive! Ticket sales begin February 1 and start at $25. Tickets can be purchased at

For more information, contact: Dr. Norman Crumpacker at ( or 919.6581669 or Anne Hamm (AHamm@umo. edu) at 919.658.7746.

Southeast North Carolina Magazine | 43

Play Dates

Events and places to visit in Southeastern North Carolina



Bernard ‘Pretty’ Purdie

323 Pollock Street

New Bern, N.C.

Bernard Lee “Pretty” Purdie is an American drummer. Best known for his signature Purdie Shu e. They will be playing on March 30 at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.


Spring Fly-in Aero-Modelers

207 Airport Rd, Kinston, N.C.

Pilot brie ng is at 9 a.m. Primitive Camping welcome. BBQ chicken, drinks and concessions available. For information, call 252-315-9100.


2023 Spring Fling

13175 NC-50, Holly Ridge, N.C.

Dance the night away at the Topsail Island Moose Lodge spring fundraiser featuring live music from The Notorious Clamslammers from 7 to 10 p.m.


North Carolina

Shad Boat exhibit

501 South Water Street

Elizabeth City, N.C.

The unique exhibit showcases the “North Carolina Shad Boat”, a 1904 original shad boat built by renowned builder and wood carver, Alvirah Wright.


NC Azalea Festival

5725 Oleander Drive, Wilmington, N.C.

Wilmington’s Azalea Festival returns this spring from April 12 through April 16. Each year, colorful parades, home tours, and musical entertainment build to the crowning the Azalea Queen. Known as one of the biggest and best festivals along the southeast coastline, and newcomers are welcome to join in the fun to experience full days of vendors, live music and parades.


Arts in April Music Festival

414 Pollock Street, New Bern, N.C.

New Bern’s Arts in April Music Festival is a three-day event that will kick o on April 14. On Saturday enjoy live musicians performing free concerts in front of downtown storefronts, parks, and residences all day. Three featured guest artist concerts will anchor the Arts in April Music Festival on NBCT’s Athens MainStage Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday a ernoon at 2:00 p.m.

44 | Southeast North Carolina Magazine


All of the events listed here were still on schedule as of press time, but it’s best to check with each venue to ensure that the event is still going on as planned.

Pender County Business Expo

15395 US-17

Hampstead, N.C.

Pender County’s Business Expo & Trade Show will take place on April 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tara Creek Pro Rodeo

136 Robert Hobbs Rd., Faison, N.C.

The Atlantic Packaging Arena will be lled with some of the best cowboys and cowgirls on Apr 21-22 at 7:30 p.m.


Fayetteville Dogwood Festival

222 Hay Street, Fayetteville, N.C.

The festival kicks o April 27 with the Cork & Fork: premier food and wine event with live music, carnival rides, and food from a variety of vendors. Saturday features a Street Fair, a Kid’s Zone and a BMX Bike Show. Sunday will continue the fun, but add on a car and motorcycle show, and more midway rides to conclude the event. For details, visit


Pickle Festival

123 N. Center St. Mount Olive, N.C.

The North Carolina Pickle Festival returns to Mount Olive on April 29. With pickle fans from far and wide, this year’s royal-themed festival is one you won’t forget!

Southeast North Carolina Magazine | 45
27 THU
29 FRI

Sights and Sounds Concert Series

3201 S 17th St.

Wilmington, N.C.

From 2-4 p.m. at the As part of the North Carolina Artists Series, this harp, viola, and ute trio features top talent with ties to the state. Program featuring French-inspired music for harp. All the composers had musical relationships: Debussy inspiring and competing with Ravel; Faur© teaching Ravel at the Conservatoire; Reni© in uencing Ravel and Debussy; Ravel cavorting with the likes of de Falla and Stravinsky. As part of the North Carolina Artists Series, this harp, viola, and ute trio features top talent with ties to the state.

The Carolina Strawberry Festival will feature a weekend of full of fun activities. On Friday, May 5, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. participants can enjoy a great selection of entertainment, strawberries, wings, beer and a wine garden. On Saturday, May 6, from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. will feature a great selection of food vendors, entertainment, strawberries, a dare devil dog show, cooking contest, little miss pageant, helicopter rides, BBQ sandwiches, a Beer & Wine Garden and more. Bring your shaggin shoes and close the festival with the Band of Oz playing at 8 p.m. For more details, visit

Island Arts Festival

Atlantic Avenue at S Lake Park Blvd.

Carolina Beach, NC

Celebrate visual, culinary and performing arts by the sea when the Island Arts Festival expands to a two day celebration. Friday brings an evening indoor group of exhibits at the Community Life Center on 300 Harper Avenue featuring arts, ne cra s and specialty culinary arts. On Saturday, enjoy artist vendors outside at Carolina Beach Lake Park displaying their ne arts and cra s, demonstrations of creative processes, an interactive art area for kids, artists’ performances and much more.

The annual Wooden Boat Show is a tradition in the town of Beaufort, and its 49th celebration promises to be bigger and more engaging than ever before. With a long roster of activities that are slated for the weekend-long event, visitors will be treated to a wealth of activities, displays, exhibits, and interactive ways to join in the fun.

46 | Southeast North Carolina Magazine
Annual Wooden Boat Show 315 Front Street, Beaufort, N.C.
Carolina Strawberry Festival Downtown Wallace, N.C.

BBQ Fest on the Neuse

Pearson Park, Mitchell St. in Downtown, Kinston, N.C.

The 2023 BBQ Fest on the Neuse kicks o Friday at 5 p.m. and will feature a cook o , carnival rides, a beer and a wine garden and hundreds of vendors May 5- May 6. Easton Corbin will be headlining the 2023 festival with a free concert on Friday, May 5 at 8:30 p.m. For more information, visit


Atlantic Beach

International Food Festival

201 W. Atlantic Blvd., Atlantic Beach, N.C.

Celebrate the spring and summer kicko at The CIRCLE in Atlantic Beach on Saturday, May 13 from noon to 8 p.m.


North Carolina Symphony

203 S Front St., New Bern, N.C.

Relive your favorite musical moments in lm history with North Carolina Symphony Movie Music Classics. Michelle Di Russo - Romeo and Juliet on May 18 from 7:30 p.m.9:30 p.m.

Weddings, bridal and baby showers, rehearsal dinners, elegant plated meals, buffet, hors d’oeuvres, fresh flower arrangements, wedding cakes and favors, rentals



Holidays are coming...get your orders in for cakes, pies, cookies and other goodies now!!

Southeast North Carolina Magazine | 47
Good Food Truck available for various functions. WARSAW, NC 910.289.0336 @EZZELL’S, LLC. @SOMETHIN GOODTRUCK

North Carolina Home Expo

1960 Coliseum Dr. Fayeteville, N.C.

Explore the latest in home improvement, remodeling, outdoor living, and more at the North Carolina Home Expo on May 19-21, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Meet with local contractors and remodeling experts and expect to be inspired.

At the Gallery Concert Series

317 Middle Street, New Bern, NC

The Boni des will perform music by Fleetwod Mac at the Gallery on Saturday, May 20 at 7 p.m. with pre-concert talk at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Beaufort Music Festival

Gallants Channel

Beaufort, NC

The Beaufort Music Festival will be on May 19 - May 20 with music that ranges from bluegrass and country, to funk, blues and jazz. The Beaufort Music Festival has become a beloved event for music lovers everywhere, thanks to its amazing line-up of talented artists, and its home base in the charming coastal town of Beaufort. Featuring two full days of music that are stocked with local, regional, and even nationally recognized artists and performers at the heart of the Crystal Coast.

MAY 20

Wings Over Wayne Air Show

Seymour Johnson AFB, Goldsboro, N.C.

The Wings Over Wayne Air Show takes ight on May 20 and May 21. Wings Over Wayne Air Show is FREE.


Orange Street ArtsFest

120 S. 2nd Street.

Wilmington, N.C.

Orange Street ArtsFest will be May 27, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thalian Association Community Theatre is excited to announce that the 27th Annual Orange Street ArtsFest will be held this year on Memorial Day Weekend.

48 | Southeast North Carolina Magazine

Arts by the Sea Festival Swansboro, N.C.

Enjoy the Swansboro Arts by the Sea Festival on Saturday, June 10. This unique and day-long festival has a wealth of activities, entertainment and enticements for everyone in the family, with plenty of food, cra s, children’s activities, and shopping opportunities in the picturesque Swansboro waterfront town.

Kayak for the Warriors


Kayak for the Warriors is a 3.2-mile kayak and paddleboard race through Bogue Sound and the Pine Knoll Shores canals, and begins June 3, at 10 a.m., in the following categories: Elite Racers, Paddleboard Racers, Tandem Racers, and General Kayakers. Proceeds support Hope For The Warriors.

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NC Blueberry Festival

106 E Wilmington Street, Burgaw, N.C.

The Blueberry Festival is celebrating 20 years this June 16-17. The festival highlights the historical, economic, and cultural signi cance of blueberries in the southeastern region of our state. The festival is a great source of local pride. More than 100 volunteers are required to stage over 20 events ranging from live entertainment to car show, a street fair, recipe contest, barbecue cook-o , a 5K run, kids’ activities, special exhibits, and more!

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50 | Southeast North Carolina Magazine
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