March 2017

MARCH MADNESS – don’t you just love it! The world according to basketball! This in-between time of year, when winter seems to drag its feet as spring is knocking at the door, calls to us and provides an opportunity to release our pent-up energies all in the name of basketball! "March Madness" is not limited to one day or to a specific team. We cheer our favorite teams to victory in gymnasiums, arenas, coliseums, homes and favorite gathering places across North Carolina and across the country. Barbeque is still the cuisine of choice celebrating "March Madness" in North Carolina, but chili, wings, and pizza are all integral components of this basketball mania, complimenting favorite beverages to complete any celebration.

“March Madness” is a term coined by Henry V. Porter, former assistant executive secretary of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). Mr. Porter wrote an essay that appeared in the Illinois Interscholastic, the IHSA’s magazine, in March 1939 extolling the virtues of the state’s basketball culture. “March Madness” proved to be a unifying force for the state of Illinois during World War II and Porter’s poem, “Basketball Ides of March,” was published in the Illinois Interscholastic in March 1942. The IHSA’s website succinctly sums up the era as follows: “In a time before television, before the college game became popular with the average fan, before professional leagues had established a foothold in the nation’s large cities, basketball fever had already reached epidemic proportion in the Land of Lincoln.”  And I thought “March Madness” originated in North Carolina!!! “March Madness” is a registered trademark of the Illinois High School Association.

Growing up in North Carolina when television was still only viewed in black and white, the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament meant glimpsing into the world of the Big Four on Tobacco Road – the state’s four major universities—NC State, UNC, Duke and Wake Forest. Each of these schools has a unique basketball legacy; combined, the stories and championships are an integral part of North Carolina’s history.  Recently I had the opportunity to tour the newly refurbished Reynolds Coliseum on NC State’s campus. When Reynolds Coliseum opened its doors in 1949 it was the largest basketball arena in the southeast. The building recently underwent at $35 million renovation and reopened in the fall of 2016. Renovations include the NC State Walk of Fame and History, celebrating the storied history of national championships, Olympic athletes, and all sports since the land grant university’s early students organized its first football game in 1892. Keeping its original 1949 look, the building’s exterior has had a thorough facelift. It’s a dynamic marriage of a 20th century icon with a 21st century vision. Be sure to check the Reynolds Coliseum website for information and plan your visit.

North Carolina experienced an unusually mild February. Flowering trees and shrubs are already making their appearance in the landscape, meaning spring is just around the corner! The visit NC concierge Wilmington trip (March 31) is almost full. Go to our website for a full description of this excursion and call to add your name to the list of those traveling to the port city later this month.

Happy travels!
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Did You Know?
Photo from Our State magazine story The Big Freeze
When reading about "March Madness," do you know where/what Tobacco Road is? Although there is a road in Pitt County known as “Tobacco Road” it’s not the one sports announcers in the ACC are referring to this time of year. Originally Tobacco Road was the title of an Erskine Caldwell novel set in Georgia. However, North Carolina was the center of the tobacco industry, and the name soon became associated with the rivalries between colleges and universities in North Carolina’s Piedmont region. 

The best definition I’ve found was written by Al Featherston in an article entitled “What Is Tobacco Road?” and released 02/11/2009. “The term actually refers to the remarkably compact region of North Carolina’s populous Piedmont where college basketball was born in the South and grew to mythic proportions. Four schools, originally all located within a 30-mile radius, nurtured the sport in the early days of the 20th century. Their rivalries were a regional phenomenon at first, but in trying to outdo each other, the four neighboring schools drove each other to greater and greater heights and turned the term Tobacco Road into shorthand for the nation’s college basketball heartland,” according to Featherston. For readers new to the state, those four universities – NC State, UNC, Duke and Wake Forest-- were all located in the Triangle at one time. In 1956 Wake Forest, the smallest of the schools, relocated to Winston-Salem when the Smith Reynolds Foundation (think R.J. Reynolds tobacco fortune) made a large endowment to the school with the stipulation that Wake Forest move to Winston-Salem.

Mr. Featherston continues, “And there are more residents along Tobacco Road than merely the Big Four superpowers. Guilford College, Winston-Salem State University, North Carolina Central University, Barton College and Gardner-Webb have all won national championships in their divisions. Hall of Fame coach John McClendon got his start on Tobacco Road, while Hall of Famer Clarence ‘Big House’ Gaines won more than 800 games on The Road. Future NBA giants Red Auerbach, Hubie Brown, Chuck Daly and Larry Brown all worked there. So did such NBA stars as Sam Jones, Artis Gilmore and Earl ‘The Pearl’ Monroe. Globetrotter’s headliner Meadowlark Lemon grew up on Tobacco Road. The region nurtured such successful and familiar broadcasters as Bones McKinney and Billy Packer before the recent additions of Hubert Davis, Jason Williams and Jay Bilas. All belong to Tobacco Road.”

To learn more Mr. Featherston's complete article is a fascinating look into the history and culture of Tobacco Road.
2017 Spring Tours

Coastal Carolina Springtime - Wilmington |March 31

On this day trip we'll explore gardens, the historic district, and one of the country’s oldest theaters. Departing Raleigh at 8 a.m. our first stop in Wilmington is Airlie Gardens for a 10:30 tour. The website succinctly articulates what awaits you: “Airlie continues to amaze visitors with its breathtaking combination of formal gardens, wildlife, historic structures, walking trails, sculptures, views of Bradley Creek, 10-acres of freshwater lakes, more than 100,000 azaleas and the grandeur of the 467-year-old Airlie Oak.” Our visit is scheduled one week prior to the annual Azalea Festival.

Following our time in the gardens there will be free time to explore the gift shop before reboarding the motor coach to travel to downtown Wilmington for lunch at The City Club, a beautifully restored antebellum home in the historic district overlooking the downtown commercial district and Cape Fear River. Our local expert guide will narrate the 15-minute drive sharing her vast knowledge of the community and its important contributions to the development of our state. After lunch a horse-drawn trolley tour awaits us as we continue our exploration of Wilmington. With the accompaniment of our expert local guide we'll view and learn about the Wilmington Historic District before disembarking at Thalian Hall, one of the oldest theaters in the country (built in 1858), to learn about its architecture and influence on the life and culture of the community. Free time for shopping or relaxing before the return to Raleigh completes our adventure to the port city.  ETA back in Raleigh is 6:30 p.m.
Learn More + Register for Coastal Carolina Springtime

High Country Adventure|May 24-26
North Carolina’s High Country includes the mountain counties of Watauga, Avery, Mitchell, Ashe, Alleghany and Wilkes. Located in the northwestern corner of the state, the name was created in the 1980s to forge an identity locals and visitors alike could embrace.  Welcoming visitors for three centuries, the High Country’s hospitality, natural beauty and unique culture beckon visitors year round.

visit NC concierge’s trip to the High Country will take us to northwestern North Carolina when the rhododendron are blooming and summer tourists haven’t arrived just yet. Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway over the course of three days will immerse us in the glory of springtime in the Appalachian Mountains. The charming town of Blowing Rock will be our base for exploration. Plans include visiting West Jefferson, home of Ashe County Cheese, North Carolina’s oldest cheese manufacturer. We’ll learn about the expansive biodiversity of Grandfather Mountain when we visit the Grandfather Mountain State Park and Grandfather Mountain attraction. Linville, home of the famous Eseeola Lodge, is steeped in mountain hospitality. The bark-clad lodge began welcoming guests to this beautiful area in 1892. Bark siding has seen a resurgence in the past few decades. We’ll learn more about this quality building material that has become synonymous with the region. Guests will have ample time to leisurely explore the charming town of Blowing Rock with its captivating downtown and vast array of shopping and dining opportunities.
Learn More + Register for High Country Adventure
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What Our Guests are Saying About Us

This day tour was a particular treat and set a high standard for future reference. Well done!
~ John B.

What I appreciate is that you provide guests an opportunity to learn and experience a part of NC while you take care of all the logistics and details!
~ Dana R.

This was a very educational and enjoyable trip from beginning to end.
~ Jean G.

Contact us to book your tour today! 
visit NC concierge is a premier hospitality company dedicated to providing the discriminating traveler unique experiences savoring North Carolina’s history, geography, and culture at a leisurely travel pace while enjoying the state’s finest sites, cuisine, and lodgings. Itineraries are subject to change at the discretion of the company. Group size: minimum 10; maximum 30. Registration for each tour closes 30 days prior to tour start date. For more information, visit us at
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