Welcome to Kinston!

Photo: Kinston Free Press

Photo: Kinston Free Press

Photo: Seraphim Smith  Pride of Kinston Marketing & Promotion Committee is comprised of volunteers who are shaking things up in Downtown Kinston!

Photo: Seraphim Smith

Pride of Kinston Marketing & Promotion Committee is comprised of volunteers who are shaking things up in Downtown Kinston!


It is a new year and you rocked it in 2018!

This is OUR commUNITY. We can make it what we want it to be and together we ARE making a difference for Kinston and Lenoir County.

Good foundations for Pride of Kinston were constructed by my predecessors and we should recognize that.  On that foundation we have built the first level of a renewed Pride of Kinston.  

A community, be it a neighborhood or a town, or even an organization, is only as good as the people in it.  Our communities reflect our pride of place and love of community. Working cooperatively together helps us reach our shared goals.   

To reach those goals requires more than vision and dreams, it requires money and time and energy along with a team of workhorses.  This is not just volunteering and being supportive.  This is fully a philanthropic effort.  Philanthropy is more than writing a check, it is time and energy, too.  

An example of particularly memorable monetary philanthropy and one of our proudest philanthropic moments of the year, occurred when we were fundraising for the Christmas lights.  It involved a 5 year-old little girl who came up to me with a $5 bill saying she wanted to contribute to the Christmas lights.  That was a very sweet moment.  

Another example is someone came out as we were setting up the tree in Pearson Park and said “I will not be here for the lighting. Book a band for the opening and send me the bill.  This is going to be huge for Kinston and we need this.”

An example of time and energy philanthropy occurred the same day.  People came out to lend a hand for whatever amount of time they could spare, and some brought coffee and food for all of us, too.  Thank you so much, Kinston!

These are perfect examples of what is so wonderful about Kinston.  Mayberry may not exist, but Kinston is pretty darn close to it.  People here really do care and I am grateful and blessed to be here, and to call Kinston home. 

Pride of Kinston is a shared success with everyone who helps in any way in supporting our new vision and direction of revitalizing downtown.  This includes the merchants and property owners downtown, citizens of Kinston-Lenoir County who give of themselves in so many ways, a great Board of Directors, our committee members and many volunteers, our sponsors and supporters throughout the community including leaders like our Mayor Don Hardy and the City Council, our City Manager and Planner, partners like Parks and Recreation, area media that includes Raine Tyndall and her Curtis Media team, BJ Murphy and his Neuse News team, TACC 9 and other TV Stations for loving what we do and showcasing it, Chris Segal and the Kinston Free Press team, North Carolina Main Street, NC Legislators like Chris Humphrey who is already making a difference, citizens in our community and everyone who attends our events, both the so-called free ones like Kinston Summerfest and our bar crawls, as well as the ticketed ones like the New Year’s Eve Masquerade at the Museum. Thank you all.  

Non-profit organizations work very hard to make a difference.  It is not always easy to obtain much-needed volunteers because we all have lives and families.  In many instances volunteering can turn into a time-sucking chore, but the volunteers for Pride of Kinston can attest to the fact that we have fun making a difference in our community. We are so grateful for each of them.

Here are some 2018 highlights for Pride of Kinston

Marketing Pride of Kinston, the City of Kinston, and Lenoir County

• A professional in-house web, graphics, social media, videographer was hired to save money and time in all of these important areas. The success is proven both monetarily and in algorithms where Pride of Kinston as well as the City of Kinston are concerned.

• A new, more engaging website (created in one week) combined with very popular, continuous social media activity continues to grow our popularity.

• We initiated a pushback campaign. Naysayers are for the most part now quiet.

• We are seeing new faces in Kinston/Lenoir County. Natives are returning and outsiders are moving in from across the country. While we cannot take all the credit, we can hope that it is somewhat associated with all of our positive marketing for Kinston and of Pride of Kinston.

• Local realtors report that home sales have been brisk, and that the market has moved from a buyers’ to sellers’ market, the inventory is dramatically reduced. Again, surely some of our marketing played a role.

• We expanded our reach and targeted specific demographics with success.

• Kinston-Lenoir County Tourism Authority awarded us a marketing grant for our Kinston Christmas endeavors.

• Pride of Kinston approached and partnered with Neuse News to have the Christmas Parade broadcast on Facebook Live.

• Pride is working with Curtis Media (and others) to promote downtown business during the redesign of Queen St.

In the News

• UNCTV is featuring Kinston in a new Public Television series about downtown revitalization.

• Area news crews are often here reporting on the good things we are doing, particularly where Pride of Kinston is concerned. We have had numerous TV and social media appearances regarding what we are doing since the first week onboard.

• Facebook Live broadcast of the Christmas Parade by Neuse News as well as a FB Live promo with Chris Segal from Kinston Free Press.


• The rebranding of Sand in the Street to Kinston Summerfest to include a slightly diversified mix of music shifted the traditional demographic of attendees to one that includes people who are now spending time and money downtown before and after the concerts.

• Kinston Christmas now includes events in Pearson Park, the Courthouse/Queen Street lighting, the Christmas Parade, and Winterfest in partnership with Parks & Recreation. Rebranding them all as events under the umbrella of A Kinston Christmas enabled us to promote all more easily and with shared graphics productions of necessary materials including branded banners and billboards.

• Fundraising: $76K+ for projects and events

• Sponsorship dollars raised for Summerfest exceeded the previous year.

• Fundraising for A Kinston Christmas in Pearson Park broke all records of non-profit fundraising in Lenoir County. In 4 weeks, Pride of Kinston raised $65K. $30K of which are City funds for the year-around Neuse River Lights project portion of Pride of Kinston’s Christmas in Pearson Park economic development project proposal.

• $10K was awarded to Pride to promote A Kinston Christmas as noted above

• Christmas Parade entry fees were increased this year from $20 to $35 bringing in around $1,000.

• A new Herritage Street flowers for pots fund has arisen with a beginning contribution of $300.


• Herritage Street has no spaces for lease. Side street locations are filling. Parking is becoming a problem day and night in that area (a great problem to have as it indicates vitality). Growth will soon expand to the east side of Queen Street.

• People call frequently about space in which to open a small business. Very little is available at the moment.

• The Paramount Theater sold and the roof repaired.

• Investigation is underway to get the façade restored, and the marquee replicated and lit up.

• Our 3 to 5 year plan for expanding the Pearson Park Christmas lighting into the Neuseway Nature Park occurred in our first year.

• The City is investing $3.2MM in redesigning Queen Street in 2019, then DOT will repave the street and install the lights on the Queen Street Bridge.

• Summerfest demographics shifted as planned. More people came downtown to eat, drink, and enjoy before and after the concerts.

• Halloween Creepy Crawl Bar Hop brought 40 costumed consumers downtown in the rain. Half were from out of town.

• Pride of Kinston’s social media and assistance with some businesses initiated a dramatic uptick in MSD social media presence, spurring improved marketing throughout downtown.

• The Market opened.

• Herritage Tap Room opened.

• Just Add Salt Boutique opened.

• Serenite Apothecary shop opened.

• North Street Pub relocated. The building is for sale.

• Barbaros closed and a smoothie shop opened in the space.


• From the Christmas lighting proposal to light the Neuse River came the idea to include the same programmable LED up-lights along the new Queen Street to illuminate our new trees year-around.

• A free event was initiated by Pride to get people downtown to spend money and experience downtown bars and restaurants. Halloween Creepy Crawl Bar Hop was successful despite the rain and plenty of money was spent by all.

• Christmas window displays contest had over 40 MSD members on board to compete and light up their windows and / or buildings for the holidays. Others came onboard after the contest deadline.

in the Pipeline

• Our events committee is exploring having a small Mardi Gras event in March.

• Mardi Gras may see a Mardi Gras Bar Crawl as well as a Mardi Gras Ball fundraiser for Pride.

• The spring will see a Bunny Hop Bar Crawl.

• Main Street/Pride strategic planning occurred on Jan 3.

• Board and committees trainings are in the works.

• Inactive committees will be reactivated.


• The special event and promotions committee has grown from 8 to 28 team members, and other volunteers pop up to help when needed as they can. Community engagement and interest is impressive.

Conferences and Training

• Both State and National Main Street conferences were attended along with local manager trainings as required of the State Main Street program agreement.

- Upcoming:

• March 2019, State Conference in Salisbury, NC

• March 2019, National Conference in Seattle, WA

We cannot get to where we need to go if we do not work together as a community and this community is unique in that our various organizations work well together.  We may be focused on different community commitments, but our ultimate goal is a shared one; making the City of Kinston and Lenoir County the best we can.  Because we are all rowing this boat in the same direction, we are making a huge difference in our collective success. 

Thank you for this. It means a lot to my team, to me, and to our community.  

Warmest regards,

Leon Steele

Executive Director, Pride of Kinston

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