PUBLISHED ONLINE MAY 25, 2023   •   VOL. 5, NO. 21

Stories and photos by WINGATE LASSITER unless credited otherwise
(Click on highlighted link to e-mail the editor)



Emergency's end means no more tracking data

The Federal Government officially ended the national public-health emergency for COVID-19 on May 11, two weeks ago. As a result, state and national data centers are no longer publishing weekly updates on numbers of new cases and deaths resulting from the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the Johnston County Public Schools COVID-19 dashboard was still "live" this week, but it shows zero cases of COVID-19 among students and staff.

Here's the Weekly Sun's final scoreboard of cases and deaths:


last reported 5-10-2023
Total cases
since 3-14-2020
since 3-14-2020
NORTH CAROLINA 3,501,404 29,059
UNITED STATES 103,804,263 1,123,836
WORLDWIDE 676,609,955 6,881,955

 Data from N.C. Department of Health & Human Services and Johns Hopkins University

Smithfield population 12,129 in latest Census estimate

Just released July 1, 2022 estimates by the U.S. Census for municipalities show a gain of 499 residents for Smithfield over the 2021 estimate of 11,630 and 837 above the 2020 Census count of 11,292. Reported earlier this year was a 2022 estimate for Johnston County of 234,778 – a gain of 8.7% above the 2020 count of 215,999. Clayton's estimated population has reached 29,445 – more than 3,100 above the town's 2020 Census count.

Participants in Monday's rally for the JCC Spectrum Student Club posed for pictures on steps of the Johnston County Courthouse after a walk around the block.

Rally stands up for students' "Y'all for All" event

An LGBTQ+ students' club at Johnston Community College had scheduled an event billed as a "Y'all for All Fest" to be held in early June on the JCC campus and also at the Gilded Pear Brew House in Downtown Smithfield. But it was canceled, and then rescheduled as a "virtual" online event, after organizers were threatened.

"Within an hour of our poster going up at one of our venues, an aggressive group of men arrived to threaten and intimidate," reads a statement posted online by the Spectrum Student Club. "They banged on the windows with their fists, entered the building, and shouted hateful anti-LGBTQ+ speech at the shop owner and employees."

The club said "this news has indicated to us that there is an organized group of actors in Johnston County with ill will and intent to enact violence against LGBTQ+ people. For this reason, we have to protect the safety of our community and cancel the event.

In response, a group of about two dozen students and their supporters rallied outside the Johnston County Courthouse late Monday afternoon to demonstrate their resolve to overcome gender prejudice and discrimination.

For starters, the students announced that the Y'all Means All Fest will go on with "free entertainment virtually on June 10th via Zoom and/or live-stream." Beyond that, "we are also currently formulating ways to involved our vendors, community partners, and volunteers, and we are building out a more robust offering of virtual programming that will expand beyond June."

One of the students' boosters, Ben Chapman, organized Monday's rally in conjunction with the nationwide observance of "Harvey Milk Day," held each year on the birthday of the first openly gay person elected to public office in California, and perhaps the entire nation. Harvey Milk was assassinated in 1978.

Among those who took part in Monday's rally here was Avery Everett, a Clayton town councilman who was elected in 2019 as the first openly gay candidate to win public office in Johnston County.

EDITOR'S NOTE: LGBTQ+ is a contemporary acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer et al.


Region's Federal Reserve chief checks on Johnston

Thomas I. Barkin, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, traveled to Johnston County last week to meet with business and community leaders as part of a two-day visit to the eastern Triangle region.

He met with industry representatives from real estate, banking, construction, health care, agribusiness, tourism and hospitality, life sciences, and advanced manufacturing. The meetings and tour were organized by the Johnston County Office of Economic Development.

"It says a lot about our reputation that the Federal Reserve Bank president would ask to visit Johnston County and meet with us," said Ted Godwin, a member of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners who participated in the full day’s visit. "President Barkin was able to see a good cross-section of our highly diversified economy and asked a lot of really good questions about what we’re seeing. We appreciate his interest in who we are and how we’re doing."

Mr. Barkin routinely visits communities and businesses in the Federal Reserve’s Richmond District, which covers the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Much of what Mr. Barkin heard here regarded the county’s rapid growth, strong housing market, and low unemployment. "It’s always fun to go to a place that’s winning," he said.

Among the stops on Mr. Barkin’s tour were the offices of Clayton residential developer RiverWild, UNC Health Johnston, Caterpillar’s building construction products division, Kornegay Family Farms near Princeton (pictured), and Smithfield’s Ava Gardner Museum. The day ended with a reception at Johnston Regional Airport that included mayors of the county’s 11 municipalities.

(Story & photo from Johnston County Economic Development Office)


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Johnston lands a second 4-H Extension agent

A second 4-H agent has joined the staff of the Johnston County Cooperative Extension Service.

"We are blessed to have Kaena Prince join the team to serve youth in Johnston County," said Bryant Spivey, Johnston's Extension director. "As a growing county, we have youth from all walks of life with broad interests and backgrounds. 4-H has programs that can serve all our youth."

Currently Johnston has 20 4-H clubs with 486 members engaged in a variety of activities including target sports, livestock management, public speaking, and STEM (an academic acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math). "Last year we served around 2,500 students through our school enrichment programs, mainly embryology," added 4-H Agent Meredith Wood.

Ms. Prince, the new agent, is a graduate of N.C. State University with a Bachelor Of Science degree in Extension Education and a Master's degree in Agriculture Education. She is from Waxhaw and has been living in Johnston County for two years now. Previously, she worked for North Carolina Farm Bureau Insurance as an associate agent licensed in property and casualty.

Two JCI professionals get statewide recognition


Two employees of non-profit Johnston County Industries (JCI) got top honors at a recent statewide conference of employment and training professionals. Nevaro Pitt (left) was named "IPS Employment Specialist of the Year," Tyler McCarthy (right) "IPS Program Assistant of the Year."

IPS – Individual Placement and Support – is described by JCI as "an evidence-based, individual placement and support employment model for persons with mental health and substance abuse barriers." JCI's IPS teams serve residents of Johnston and Harnett counties.


Mr. Pitt and Mr. McCarthy accepted their awards at the UNC Institute for Best Practices ACT and IPS conference in Winston-Salem (ACT is short for Assertive Community Treatment). Mr. Pitt has worked in mental health for more than 15 years. Mr. McCarthy has been with JCI since October 2019.

The Institute for Best Practices is part of the UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health within the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Psychiatry.



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Another reprise for Rotary's "Flags for Heroes"

Volunteers from the Rotary Club of Central Johnston County put up more than a hundred American flags this week for what has become an annual project in honor of the nation's military veterans and active duty personnel as well as first responders and health-care workers on the home front. The flags will remain in place beside the walking trail in front of the hospital here through June 18. "Flags for Heroes" got its start three years ago in response to the COVID pandemic.


Third test of Downtown farmers market this Saturday

Round 3 of a revived Downtown Smithfield farmers market continues from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday along the 100 block of South Third Street. Organized by the operators of two retail shops there, the market has a permit to operate one more time before the Town Council makes a decision on whether it may continue in that location. The Smithfield market was scheduled every other Saturday to avoid a conflict with a market previously in operation at Wilson's Mills every other week.

Memorial Day observance at the Courthouse Monday

The Johnston County Veterans Council will host its annual Memorial Day ceremony at 11 a.m. Monday inside the Johnston County Courthouse. The event will feature keynote speaker (Retired) U.S. Air Force Tech Sergeant Stan Jones, a veteran of the Vietnam War and the Gulf War. Mr. Jones is a local business owner and pastor who served in the military for more than 20 years. Monday's program will be live-streamed on the county's YouTube channel>

301 north of Four Oaks to be closed for about a month

A section of US 301 on the north side of Four Oaks will close next Tuesday (May 30) for about a month for replacement of a drainage pipe under the pavement. The closure will affect both directions of 301 near Forest Hills Drive. A detour will send through traffic onto Keen and Boyette roads, past Four Oaks Middle School.


Neuse Charter soccer girls eliminated in a tie-breaker

The Cougars were eliminated from the state 1-A playoffs by North Moore High School last Thursday in a tie-breaker after the two teams were tied 2-2 at the end of regulation. The defeat ended the season for the Cougars, who finished with a record of 13 wins and 6 losses including an 8-2 record in Carolina 1-A Conference matches – good for second place behind the team from Hobbton High School.

the pond in
S. Smithfield

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Click on the name to read an obituary, usually posted by the funeral home

MELVIN RAY EDWARDS, 95 – died May 23

DIANNE DEANS McCABE, 65 – died May 23






Observations about a couple of Town of Smithfield projects:

Spring Branch never looked so good!

The work to reconstruct its banks and convert the old straight-line "ditch" into a meandering stream between South Fifth and Sixth streets appears to be almost finished. Its redesign for flood mitigation got its first test with last Friday's downpour, as shown in this view looking downstream from Sixth Street.

When beautification goes too far

Generally speaking, the landscaping at Smithfield Community Park is first-rate. But sometimes nice plantings can get out of hand as illustrated by the knockout roses obscuring the sign at the park's Miracle Field built for handicapped youngsters.

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