Tuesday, November 17, 2015

It's the holiday season, y'all!

We like to puff our collective chest out here in North Carolina. And mostly for good reason. One area in which our fair state excels is agriculture. And this time of year, boy oh boy, is it a good ag time of the year.

As we are on the cusp of Thanksgiving and Christmas, it's a good time to take stock of where N.C. ranks among the typical holiday trimmings, such as turkey, sweet potatoes and even the literal trimmings (Christmas trees).

How does N.C. rank?
Sweet potatoes -- We're No. 1! We're No. 1! In fact, half of the U.S. supply of sweet potatoes come from our state.
Turkeys -- The Old North State is currently second, behind Minnesota.
Christmas trees -- No. 2 behind Oregon.
Pork (Ham) -- Also second. However, Duplin and Sampson counties are the top two hog-producing counties in the United States.

Nothing Compares. Indeed.

[Image from Pinterest]

Monday, July 06, 2015

Nothing Compares

Driving back west down I-40 last night, I saw a billboard my friend Shannon had told me about. It's simple; it shows the letters "NC" with a pine tree in between with the catchphrase "Nothing Compares" below.

I saw it and tweeted (@matt_lail): "I'm digging the 'NC: Nothing Compares' ads. Nice job, @VisitNC !"

Unfortunately, I name-dropped the wrong state agency. The "Nothing Compares" campaign is a new branding campaign via the N.C. Department of Commerce, not Tourism. However, the point remains that I think this is very tasteful and very classic.

I followed up that tweet by saying that it's as if North Carolina said, "we see you and your Palmetto, SC. And we raise you a pine."

Anyway, here is some more info about the look of "Nothing Compares:"

With its scenic beauty and welcoming spirit, North Carolina has a special place in the hearts of residents, visitors and business leaders alike. Conversations with the people who know and love North Carolina helped us define the qualities that make the state so inspiring, and create the new expression of the North Carolina brand. The logo symbolizes the brand by focusing on the longleaf and other pine trees, a reflection of North Carolina’s strong roots and continued growth. The colors move from green to blue, mirroring the diverse landscape from the mountains to the sea. The tagline Nothing Compares captures the excitement of being connected to a place rich in ideas and opportunities.

The website itself features some nice pieces about the people of North Carolina, the very folks who "Inspire us all."

All in all, I really like this new brand and kudos to Kim Genardo and everyone at Commerce for pulling this off. It clearly has legs as I've seen caps and shirts with this look on them. (If anyone wants to send me some swag, I'm all for it!)  Even the Governor is getting involved. From a recent economic development announcement release (bolding is mine):

“Proto Labs is one of those 21st century companies that is helping North Carolina stay on the cutting edge of technology and innovation,” said Governor McCrory. “By more than doubling its workforce, the company is demonstrating that nothing compares to North Carolina when it comes to being a great place for innovative ideas.”

The Nothing Compares site promotes a brand video; however, I can't get it to load at the moment. So, instead, here is Sinead O'Connor with "Nothing Compares 2 U."

(Image from the NCCommerce.com site)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

American Aquarium works the state toast into one of their songs

Raleigh alt-country band American Aquarium has never shied away from promoting its hometown or home state. (Heck, they give the Avett Brothers a run for their money!) Here are just a few song titles from their catalog ...

  • "Reidsville"
  • "Cape Fear River"
  • "Jacksonville"
  • "Clark Avenue"

... just to name a few. They even name-drop Slim's bar in downtown Raleigh.

The band recently wowed audiences at SXSW with tunes from their new album, "Wolves." (The title track even has a chorus inspired by former N.C. State basketball player Julius Hodge.)  The new album even has a song called "The Old North State." (Not to be confused with the official state song, "The Old North State Forever.") The new tune from AA includes the state toast as part of the chorus.

Enjoy this tribute to North Carolina!

Friday, February 20, 2015

New North Carolina-focused publication coming this Spring

First off, we have no affiliation with this, but we are excited nonetheless when people want to talk about our favorite subject: North Carolina. So we are happy to relay the news that Bit + Grain will be coming this Spring.

From the publication's website:

Bit + Grain canvasses North Carolina and its neighbors, from mountain to sea, in search of exceptional stories. Our home - our people, our places, our culture - inspires us, and we’ve handpicked an array of curators to capture the character of our state. Every story about North Carolina, every bit and grain, counts.

Be sure to head over there and sign up for updates.

Here's some more about the name:

North Carolina, in part due to her place in the American South, is steeped in tradition and lore as thick as the swampy backwaters of the Cape Fear and mountain laurels of Appalachia.  Most of us were raised on a slew of old fashioned stories woven with regional colloquialisms and mystical expressions. There are folks who are masters of this storytelling craft. They commandeer spoken and written language with a lustrous skill and natural finesse. North Carolina has and will continue to serve as an incubator and metamorphic force for many of these masters.  Among these legends are none more notable than the playwright and Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Green. To him, our state and nation owe gratitude for his contributions to the arts, like The Lost Colony, America’s longest running outdoor drama. And it is to Paul Green that Bit + Grain owes gratitude for its name.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Where to see Christmas lights

North Carolina has long been known as the "Variety Vacationland." It could also be known as the "Christmas Lights Variety Land." No matter where you are in the state this time of year, there are noteworthy light displays for your enjoyment.

I am biased toward the Meadow Lights because I grew up not far from there and we tend to make an annual pilgrimage with the kids due to its close proximity to Raleigh.  

"Out west," McAdenville, N.C., is actually known as "Christmas Town, U.S.A."  And then there is Biltmore Estate in Asheville, which has established itself as a national draw when it comes to holiday decorating.

What are some other notable Christmas light displays we should all be aware of? VisitNC.com offers some potential places to visit. Among the list are Chetola's Festival of Lights in Blowing Rock, Speedway Lights in Concord, Beary Merry Christmas in New Bern, and much more. 

Images courtesy of Mcadenville-christmastown.com and Biltmore.com.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

No. 2 in Christmas tree sales, but No. 1 in your hearts

We like to pat ourselves on the back here in North Carolina this time of year -- and for good reason. From Thanksgiving through Christmas, Tar Heel State commodities do quite well, thank you very much. Turkeys. Sweet potatoes. And Christmas trees.

Our state is second in Christmas tree production, after Oregon. But when you compare the sales of trees to the number of acres needed to produce them, it is quite astonishing how we "make do."

According to this fact sheet, Oregon produces some 6.4 million trees to our 3.5 million -- but Oregon boasts 63,000 acres to our 32,000. In fact, an astonishing 20 percent of the nation's Christmas trees come from our state, with sales around $75 million.

Not too shabby, North Carolina. Happy holidays, indeed.

Photo from WUNC.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

N.C.'s best food tourism spots?

This may come off as snooty, and it's really not meant to, but since I live in Raleigh, I don't necessarily have to leave my city to enjoy great restaurants. The Capital City has come a long way over the past two decades or so in offering a veritable cornucopia of culinary delights. But that doesn't mean I don't look for those hot spots or "must-hit" spots around this great state. And there are plenty. Some are a short drive away, while others ... not so much.

In fact, a random conversation among coworkers a couple of weeks ago about favorite haunts around the state got me thinking: Just how far will you go for "food tourism?"

My grandparents, many moons ago, used to fly friends (in a small plane) from Clinton to Raleigh, just to have an evening at the Angus Barn. These days, I know a fair number of folks who can make a day or two out of heading to Kinston to see what Vivian Howard is cooking up at The Chef and the Farmer. People also sample the goods at Mother Earth Brewing as well. (Both of these are on my own personal "food tourism" bucket list.)

WRAL's Scott Mason, the Tar Heel Traveler, recently put out a map of some of the more popular restaurants in the state. Not surprisingly, many of these would qualify, in my mind, as food destinations: Britt's Donuts in Carolina Beach, the Roast Grill in Raleigh, Sherry's Bakery in Dunn (a personal favorite of mine).  We ARE in North Carolina, so BBQ places also made the cut (thank God!). And I know of people who have made the trek to Siler City just on the off-chance that they can enjoy a burger from Johnson's Drive-In before they run out of beef. Another place that I don't think made Scott's list but seems to be a sort of Mecca for some is the Beefmastor Inn (note the 'o') in Wilson County.

So a couple of questions .... what are some of your favorite food tourism sites in North Carolina? And how far are you willing to drive JUST to enjoy food? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Johnson's Drive-In image from Our State; Beefmastor image from greenolivemedia.blogspot.com