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{mosimage}The 24th annual Ham & Yam Festival will rock Downtown Smithfield and the Neuse River Amphitheater like never before on May 3-4, 2008. Legendary southern-rockers, the Marshall Tucker Band will headline an outstanding lineup of entertainment, leading the downtown festival down memory lane.

The free event, hosted by the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation, will also feature and crafts expo, food from local restaurants and nonprofits, and fun activities for the entire family.

"We have had rock acts before, such as Eddie Money, and we have had County acts perform as well, but the Marshall Tucker Band is great blend of the two styles of music," states Chris Johnson, Executive Director of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation and Ham & Yam coordinator. "We wanted to again make a step up with big-name entertainment. We are thrilled with the talent we've been able to have perform at this year's festival."

{mosimage}On Saturday, May 3, at 8:30pm, the Marshall Tucker Band will cap off the night with a free concert at the Neuse River Amphitheatre. For more than 30 years, these good ol' boys from Spartanburg, South Carolina have entertained fans with their Southern rock music, playing everything from country to blues and all things in between.

Years of rigorous tour schedules have earned The Marshall Tucker Band the respect of critics and countless dedicated fans. Played regularly on classic rock and country radio stations, the Marshall Tucker Band earned seven gold and three platinum albums with hits singles, such as "Heard It In a Love Song," "Fire On The Mountain," "Can't You See," and "Take The Highway." During the 90s, The Marshall Tucker Band scored four hit singles on Billboard's country chart and one on Billboard's gospel chart.

"With all the new things added to the festival, the familiar staples of the event, and free the Marshall Tucker Band concert, the festival promises to be one of the largest attended events in Johnston County history," beams Johnson.

{mosimage}Always looking to build on the festival, Downtown Smithfield and the Ham & Yam Festival is hosting the second annual "duck race." These yellow quackers are not your typical ducks, but racing ducks sporting a "PIG" mask with the worthy objective of raising money for the fight against cancer. The race will take place along the banks of the Neuse River in the Smithfield Town Commons during the Ham & Yam Festival on Sunday, May 4th. The ducks will be "dropped" at the boat ramp at approximately 4:30pm and the winner should paddle cross the finish line behind the Neuse River Amphitheater at 5:00pm.  $500 will be awarded to the first place duck, $250 for the second, and $100 for the third. All proceeded from the sale of the ducks will benefit the Johnston County Relay For Life. In 2007 over $3,500 was raised by the racing ducks.

While most events take place on Saturday and Sunday, May 3-4, the festival does include several preliminary activities.

The Smithfield Kiwanis Club's annual Ham & Yam Supper will be served 5-8 p.m. Friday, May 2 in the cafeteria at Smithfield-Selma High School. Meal tickets are $6.

Youngsters competing in the annual "What's That Yam Thing?" sweet-potato decorating contest will submit their entries between 3 and 7 p.m. Friday, May 2 for judging in a tent set up near the southwest corner of Second and Johnston streets in Downtown Smithfield. Competition is open to children in three age groups: under 5, 5-8, and 9-12. Sponsors of this event are the Johnston County Cooperative Extension Service and the Howell Theatre, which offers free movie tickets as prizes.

{mosimage}Older children and adults, meanwhile, will compete for honors in a couple of culinary contests administered by the Cooperative Extension Service: a 4-H Pig-Cooking Contest. After the judging around midday Saturday, festival goers may consume barbecue prepared by Pig-Cooking contestants and served up inside a tent near the corner of South Second and Johnston streets. (For more information about these events, call Cooperative Extension at 919-989-5380.)

"The partnership formed several years ago with the Johnston County Agricultural Extension Service and the 4-H Club has been phenomenal," claims Johnson. "We are very fortunate to have both groups as a part of our event. Early indications look like we will have over 15 cooking champions from across the area competing for the Festival's top prize. We will have plenty of award winning barbeque, so come to the festival hungry."

{mosimage}As an added entertainment bonus, the Ham & Yam will also host a "Blue Grass on the Hill" on Sunday, May 4 from 12:30PM to 5:00pm. This new element to the festival will feature local and regional bluegrass artists. So bring a blanket, kick your shoes off and enjoy!

As always, the Smithfield Kiwanis Club will be selling their "festival famous" ham biscuits all day long from their booth at the corner of Front and Johnston Street. If you can't get by the booth, listen out for the traveling Kiwanis "Ham Biscuit Wagon."

Another festival institution of the Ham & Yam Festival is free musical entertainment, performed this year on three outdoor stages in Downtown Smithfield: at the Neuse River Amphitheater, on South Second and on South Third Street. Performances continue from 9:30AM till 6:00PM on Saturday and from 12:30 to 5:00PM Sunday.

Activities scheduled for Sunday afternoon only include:

  • 4-H barbecue-rib plates on sale 12:30-2:30 p.m. in the parking lot at Second and Johnston streets.
  • Classic Car Show 12:30-5 p.m. on Johnston Street, sponsored by Sound Station & Security.
  • 9th annual "Hog Ride In," organized by Shelton's Harley-Davidson (919-938-1592).
  • "Hog Trot" and "Piglet Stampede" road races for adults and children, hosted by the Rotary Club of Central Johnston County in cooperation with the Smithfield Parks & Recreation Department (919-934-2148). Starting times are 2:30 p.m. for the children's one-mile "Stampede" and 3 p.m. for the 5K (3.1-mile) "Hog Trot." Start and finish lines are on South Second Street.

The Ham & Yam Festival is organized and supervised by the nonprofit, Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation. For more information about the Ham & Yam, call the Downtown Development office at (919) 934-0887 or visit www.downtownsmithfield.com on the web.