9OYS Living Local: The town of Oriental


Some would describe Oriental, North Carolina as one of the hidden gems of the East. 

Perhaps the best person to tell its story is Cheryl Thompson, a woman who said her family founded it.

“I am part of the Midget family that founded the town back in the 1890,” said Thompson. “It was incorporated in 1899. It was first called Smithfield, but because Smithfield already had a post office, they decided to name it something else, so Aunt Becky found a nameplate on the beach, and the name was Oriental.” 

Since then, it hasn’t grown much in population.

Around 900 people live in the coast town, but it did earn the title of sailing capital of North Carolina. 

“By 3 o’clock in the afternoon, you have always got a great southwest breeze and a lot of open water,” said Thompson. “You can sail from here out into the Pamlico sound, go to Ocracoke, go to the intercoastal waterway; get up to Morehead and Beaufort.”

Locals love the simple way of living here but know how to throw a party. 

“It’s a quiet little town, except for when we have festivals,” said Thompson. “But it seems like we have a festival about every month.” 

One of those festivals is the Croaker Festival, an event that more than 10, 000 attend annually.

It’s a four-day celebration complete with the croaker pageant, entertainment from the Marine Corps band, food vendors, and arts and crafts. 

The festival has been raising thousands of dollars for local groups since it started 38 years ago.

Thompson became the executive director five years ago and said the festival and the town it is held in are one of the East’s best kept secrets. 

“We have a lot of things to offer in Oriental, we have anything — if we don’t have it, we will find it, so come on down and visit,” said Thompson.

Other popular attractions include the Children’s Theater, delicious seafood restaurants, popular art galleries, stores and, of course, fishing.

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