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Tourism authority approves $209,000 in grants

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SMITHFIELD — The Johnston County Tourism Authority recently approved $209,000 in tourism capital grants for several area projects.

“As the county continues to grow, the investment in tourism-related projects continues to be an important element of the strategic plan for the tourism authority,” said Visitors Bureau President and CEO Donna Bailey-Taylor. “The board continues to make investments around the county an important part of our mission to make a notable difference in the quality of place for residents and visitors.”

• The Ava Gardner Museum will receive $10,000 to update and streamline its archival practices. The grant will help the Smithfield museum digitize its collection and complete a finding aid for more than 10,000 items in its storage.

• The Clayton Rugby Association and Wilson’s Mills Parks and Recreation will receive $35,000 to complete the rugby fields at Wilson’s Mills Park to host state and international tournaments.

• The Historic Smithfield Foundation is getting $25,000 to restore and preserve the only known Freedman’s Schoolhouse in North Carolina. The building, located at 308 N. Fourth St., was built in 1868-69 as a school for freed slaves. It was used as an African American school until 1912.

• Johnston Community College will receive $16,500, for renovation of the Paul A. Johnston Auditorium. The project includes a new fire curtain, which this grant will help purchase.

• A $10,000 grant will go to the Johnston County Heritage Center in Smithfield to update its archival practices. The funds will help the museum store its archives in specially treated boxes or folders.

• Smithfield Parks and Recreation will receive $15,000 to build a picnic shelter at the new Town Commons Boat Ramp in downtown Smithfield.

• The Tobacco Farm Life Museum in Kenly is getting $10,000 to hire an archivist to work on the museum’s collection and purchase conservation supplies.

• A $50,000 grant goes to the town of Kenly to tear down the old Kenly High School building. The site will become a multi-use community building for meetings and parks and recreation activities.

• The town of Princeton will receive a $37,500 grant to renovate the Princeton Community Building as a small event center and public library.

“For more than 32 years, the tourism authority has awarded grant funds to enhance the county’s historic, recreational and cultural assets building up the tourism infrastructure,” said Bailey-Taylor. “ Without a variety of museums, recreational facilities and cultural venues, visitors along I-95 and I-40 may just drive by without stopping to explore or visit.”

Bailey-Taylor said more than $1.8 million of visitor-generated hotel room tax has been reinvested into Johnston County.