November 2018

After recently presenting A Taste of North Carolina (a PowerPoint presentation chronicling the development of our state which introduces visit NC concierge to audiences), I began thinking about education in North Carolina. Telling the story of North Carolina from its earliest beginnings into the 21st century, I was struck by the strong thread of education woven into our state’s historical tapestry. As North Carolinians, we proudly claim the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as the oldest public university in the United States. Our nation’s first woman’s college, Salem College, continues to educate young women today in Winston Salem. North Carolina is home to numerous outstanding colleges and universities that continually top “best of” lists year after year.

My ancestors’ commitment to education in their small rural community in eastern North Carolina is a powerful legacy of which I am proud. My great-great grandfather was a founding member of the Pantego Academy. Placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1984, concerned citizens of Beaufort County built the school in 1874 – then known as  the Pantego Male & Female Academy –  to educate their children. In 1907, the Beaufort County Board of Education purchased and enlarged it to become a public school serving grades 1 through 11. One of the oldest existing school buildings in eastern North Carolina, today it serves as a local museum chronicling the community’s history and culture. Scott Mason, of Tarheel Traveler fame, showcased the building in one of his WRAL segments several years ago, and it’s also been featured on UNC-TV's North Carolina Weekend.
That same great-great grandfather, who had been instrumental in the development of the Pantego Male & Female Academy, sent his own daughter to boarding school in Kentucky in 1884. I discovered a receipt for $140 for her “board and education” while sorting through some family papers! This woman, my grandmother’s mother, saw to it that her four daughters all graduated from college before they could even vote in the early 1900s. That all seems unbelievable to me today!

A few years later, a wealthy philanthropist from Chicago began making a huge impact on education across the south. Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), the son of an immigrant and the president of Sears, Roebuck and Co., donated millions of dollars to assist in the building of schools for African-American children in the rural south. Several years ago I attended a book signing by Carole Boston Weatherford. She talked about the research for her book, Dear Mr. Rosenwald, which tells this incredible story of collaboration and partnership building bridges in communities. In order to qualify to receive Mr. Rosenwald’s funds (usually around $600), “the local African-American community raised additional funds, secured land, provided construction labor, and bought supplies, fuel, and, sometimes school buses. The Rosenwald Fund also required that the white community contribute to the building projects and that the state maintain the new schools.”

More than 5,000 Rosenwald schools were built between 1917-1932. Approximately 200 Rosenwald schools were built in North Carolina – more than any other state – and around 125 still exist today. Many have been, and are continuing to be, restored to preserve this important piece of our nation’s education history. One of the best preserved is the Hamilton Rosenwald School in Hamilton, N.C. (Martin County). Built in 1919, the community is planning a huge celebration for its 100th anniversary. The building has been lovingly restored and re-purposed to serve as a community welcome center, an interpretative site to tell the Rosenwald story, and as an economic engine to cultivate eco-tourism and cultural heritage initiatives throughout the Roanoke River Region.
Continuing to recognize the importance of education in North Carolina, it was heartwarming to read recently that the average SAT score for North Carolina’s public high school students rose 16 points this year – 41 points above the national average for public schools. Kudos to all who continue to make education a priority in our state!

Halloween is in our rearview mirror and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Fall’s the season of homecomings, especially on college and university campuses across the state. When one thinks of homecomings, it’s usually associated with a football game. My alma mater, Meredith College, celebrates homecoming amidst a plethora of activities and college traditions – just without a football game. It’s a fun weekend to reconnect with the college, share in the camaraderie that binds us together, and have fun on a beautiful fall weekend.

Enjoy this season that brings friends and family together for homecomings, holidays, oyster roasts, pig pickings, and just about any reason to celebrate the beauty of the change of seasons in North Carolina.
Don’t just see North Carolina. Experience it!

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North Carolina's State Symbols

Continuing to highlight a North Carolina State Symbol, this month we’re focusing on the state’s Official Folk Art. When Vollis Simpson began making giant windmills in rural Wilson County by recycling discarded farm equipment, bicycles, road signs and other things made of metal, he didn’t expect to end up creating art. Today, Mr. Simpson’s whirligigs are prized by museums and individual collectors near and far. Visiting the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park in downtown Wilson is a treat for the eyes and the spirit. The wind-driven creations are whimsical, quirky, eclectic – and just plain fun to observe and interesting to dissect each movement.

Save the Date for "A Captial Christmas"

Are you ready to celebrate the season - Raleigh style? So are we! On Thursday, December 6th, our adventure will begin as we head downtown, driving through historic neighborhoods dressed in their holiday splendor. Our destination is Caffe Luna, located in a majestic historic building in our city’s bustling downtown, and one of the Triangle’s top restaurants. Our four-course dinner of Tuscan-accented Italian fare will be enjoyed in an airy, art-filled space with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bustling downtown streets. After dinner, we’ll be transported to Memorial Auditorium for the 44th anniversary of Theatre in the Park’s A Christmas Carol. Performed annually since 1974, this beloved musical comedy, a Raleigh holiday tradition, has been named one of the “Top 20 Events in the Southeast”. Truly, it is unlike any other production you’ve ever seen of this holiday favorite. Reserve your spot today!

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What Our Guests are Saying About Us

"The trip to the North Carolina High Country provided an opportunity for us to learn about the Ben Long frescoes, Grandfather Mountain beauty, Elliott Daingerfield art and Eseeola Lodge’s history. Mary Esther’s planning and attention to detail provided us an incredible experience."

"I am a frequent traveler with Mary Esther and Visit NC Concierge. Each trip is well planned, very organized and provides experiences I could never create on my own. I highly recommend Visit NC Concierge if you seek to experience, learn and have all the planning done for you while visiting sites in North Carolina."

"Mary Esther is always available to answer any questions you may have and with great patience. She also is very willing to help solve any problem you may have. She is an excellent planner, director and tour guide. Her trips have been super!"

"Just a short note to tell you how much we enjoyed our curated trip to the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit yesterday. It was truly first class ... It was our first trip with you and certainly will not be our last."

"We were very well educated as to what we would be doing and what we needed to do to make it all happen. Everything flowed as expected."

"We loved the carriage tour through the historic district. The homes and buildings were beautiful. We loved everything we did and thought each stop was delightful. Exceeded expectations."

"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!"

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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