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Exploring Wilson, NC

Tuesday 10/23/2012

Kampers Lodge Campground

Wilson,  NC


Yesterday and today we spent some time exploring the area.  Our first stop yesterday was the Wilson Visitors Center.


The very nice woman working at the visitors center was very informative and helpful.  Her husband just happened to be there also as he had just delivered her some lunch.  He, too, was very informative and helpful.  Both of them extended that great southern hospitality that the south is known for.Smile

Wilson, and Wilson County, are famous for the many whirligigs  produced by resident Vollis Simpson.  More on that later, but we did get our first views of some of his smaller creations here at the visitors center.


The base on this one is a wire wheel cover from a car.


After we left the visitors center, we walked a half a block up the street to the library.  Our mission was to see another  Simpson whirligig.


Then we headed to a small park behind the visitors center to see a few more whirligigs.


They sit high in the air atop tall poles.





These whirligigs have many moving parts and are very creative and complex.  We found another one downtown.


Both sides have different detailing on it.  When the wind blows, the man’s arm moves the pump handle.

Next stop was the Wilson Botanical Gardens… once we figured out where it was.Smile  When we first arrived, we drove back behind the Wilson County Agricultural Building where we thought the gardens were located.  We found some gardens and started looking around and taking some pictures.


We even took a self-portrait while sitting on a swing.


Soon we were joined by Sandy, the Garden Curator.  She told us that this area was only about a year old.  She went on to explain some of the many additions and improvements that are planned and told us some stories of all the fun the children have had visiting the gardens.  She requested that we fill out a comment card before we left and directed us toward the area where the comment cards are located.  They were located in an area about 50 to 75 yards from the gardens we were viewing.  We walked over there and realized that we hadn’t actually been where we thought we were.  We had been at the new Children’s Secret Garden and then, over where the comment cards are located, we discovered the actual Wilson Botanical Gardens.  So we went ahead and walked all through that area also, and of course took many more pictures.


We found another whirligig there too.


We enjoyed both garden areas.  There were many wonderful plants and flowers, along with many pretty butterflies and bees.  But as Sandy pointed out, the gardens are so much more beautiful to see in April and May when many more plants are in bloom.  Maybe someday we’ll get back to Wilson for that.

Next stop was Dairy Queen.  Terri got the Blizzard of the month, Pumpkin Pie, and I got my usual, Chocolate Xtreme.


After our “blizzard break” we decided to try and find Vollis Simpson’s farm where he creates all of these magnificent whirligigs.  We had only the name of the road, no actual address.   However the whirligigs are quite large, so it was rather easy to find.  Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a very friendly cat!


Mr. Simpson is 93 years old now, and they say he still works in his shop almost daily.  At one time there were over 30 structures on his property.  He built and maintained all of them himself, however due to his age, he hasn’t been able to continue the required maintenance and upkeep.  Many of the whirligigs have became dilapidated and damaged, while many have been removed to be renovated/restored.

After our trip to the country we headed back to town to visit the Wilson Rose Garden.  Even though it’s late in the season, there were still plenty of beautiful roses to see and smell.



Another whirligig was located here at the rose garden.


After our stroll through the garden we decided to call it a day, a most enjoyable one indeed, and headed home for a nice quiet evening.

Today we only had a couple of places we wanted to visit, the public library rose garden and a historic site downtown on Nash Street.  We stopped at the rose garden at the library first.  It wasn’t quite as impressive as the one we visited yesterday, but it was still worth the stop.


The other stop was a sign marking the location of the first “ABC” store in North Carolina. Party smile


“Nuff” said about that. Winking smile

When we first found the site marker shown above, I had to go around the block to try to get to a parking place.  We knew there was a warehouse located someplace downtown where the restoration of the Simpson whirligigs is taking place.  Once again, serendipity, as I was circling the block we found it!!!  So, of course, I had to stop and get a few pictures.


While taking these pictures, a very nice man came out to greet us and offered to give us a tour of the warehouse.  Unfortunately I didn’t get his name.  He’s retired and works about three days a week on the whirligig restorations along with about five other retirees and six fulltime employees.  He has a lot of knowledge about Mr. Simpson and his creations.  They’re restoring, and in some cases reproducing, about 30 whirligigs.  The city has an area designated for the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park where the restored structures will be erected for viewing.  It’s a long, tedious, strenuous, and expensive project.  The goal is to have the park open by November, 2013.  Each year, the  city has a Whirligig Festival in November, and the goal is to have the project completed in time for next year’s festival.  Our tour took about an hour and was quite interesting.  I didn’t take any pictures because I didn’t want to miss anything that was being said and/or shown.  Many of the structures are huge.  In fact, one of the whirligigs being restored includes one piece alone that weighs about 2000 pounds!  Mr. Simpson makes the whirligigs out of all kinds of scrap material that he has collected over many years.  He places hand-cut “reflectors” cut out from old highway signs all over the whirligigs so they show up in the dark.

Mr. Simpson’s creations are considered artwork, even though he doesn’t consider himself an artist, and they’re truly quite amazing.  If you’re ever in or near Wilson, stop by the warehouse for a tour.  Stop out at the farm first to see the few remaining structures in their original location and current condition.  This will give you a better idea of the size of the project that’s being undertaken at the warehouse.  This restoration project isn’t a cheap endeavor either, with estimated costs projected to be at least $3 million. We weren’t aware of the whirligigs here in Wilson until Judy of Travels with Emma blogged about them just the other day.  We’re so glad she made us aware of them.  Thanks Judy!

As I mentioned the other day, Sunday we washed the windows on the rig.  That made a big difference.  Today I cleaned all the screens including the screen door.  It’s truly amazing how dirty the window and door screens can get.  I just took a wet cloth and wiped them down on both sides.  It was easy to do and only took about 20-30 minutes.  The results were wonderful!

Tomorrow, Wednesday, is a travel day.  We’re heading down to Cedar Point, NC, for a few days.

Smile Open-mouthed smile Smile Open-mouthed smile Smile


  1. What an amazing find! I would have never even thought to look for the whirlgig guy :) Love the flowers too. I'm amazed that they are still blooming this late in the season.

  2. The whirligigs are really cool. We will have to remember these when we get out that way. Also thanks for the DQ pic's, I know where we are going to stop tonight! Love them Blizzards..

  3. Well as luck would have it, while I was reading this blog you drove by! I guess you're here! See you soon :)

  4. You packed a lot into your visit in Wilson, good thing you were able to refresh yourselves with that DQ stop. ;c)

  5. So glad you found Vollis' farm and the warehouse where they are being restored. I just think they are amazing. :)

  6. I have always wanted to visit the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park and it's here in my own back yard. There is a whirligig at the NC Museum of Art too. We were hoping to get back down to Cedar Point this week to meet you also but we're just so busy now with the sale of our home it doesn't look like we'll make it. We hope to meet you both one day soon.