In a 2011 interview with the Rocky Mount Telegram, George Millar reveals he has been a facilitating fun for a long time. "Soccer wasn't in existence when we started," he points out, and neither were home video games. Noticing a dearth of places in his hometown where kids and families could safely enjoy themselves, he put his skills as a professional contractor to work. In 10 outdoor batting cages, he installed pitching machines that sling baseballs and softballs from T-ball speeds up to 80 miles per hour. Next, he and his crew of five guys—all of whom are still operating the business today—built an 18-hole mini-golf course modeled after those in Myrtle Beach, designing a path that winds past waterfalls, natural plantings, and tricky bunkers filled with saltwater taffy. An arcade blares with games and the crack of pool balls ricocheting inside, and an elephant-shaped inflatable bounce house bobs with jumpers inside until they come zipping out down its slide.
With 18 acres of blooming gardens and natural North Carolina wetlands, the Sylvan Heights Bird Park provides a home for more than 2,000 ducks, geese, and exotic egg layers. As they stroll along the trails and waterfront, guests can observe birds hailing from almost every continent, such as peacocks, flamingos, and toucans. In addition to the walk-through aviaries, the park aims to educate and entertain visitors with interactive children’s programs, tours, and activities such as scavenger hunts. Among its many attractions are the Bird’s Nest Treehouse and Beaver Pond Blind, both of which highlight the importance of wetland conservation, as well as the Landing Zone, where visitors can feed the birds with a seed stick.
Rather than relying on lectures and stuffy articles, Imagination Station Science and History Museum engages visitors of all ages in the sciences with a range of dynamic exhibits and interactive programs. The museum—housed in Wilson's former federal post office and courthouse—thrills guests with rotating displays as well as 22 permanent exhibits. These hands-on galleries house animal collections, which include live specimens such as turtles and albino lizards. A range of educational programs such as field trips, themed science day camps, and science demonstrations complement these exhibits. The interactive center is also a resource for local information—a small, regional history exhibit on the third floor detail local history and culture.
As members of the Coastal Plain League, a confederation of top college players staying hot for the summer, the Wilson Tobs kick off the 2012 season with a matchup against their North Division rivals, the Petersburg Generals. In the past, the Tobs' roster has helped cultivate such star players as current Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander. This year, Clemson first baseman Joe Costigan returns to the Tobs dugout along with St. Louis University pitcher Jon Levin, whose four wins tied for the team lead in 2011. The Tobs kick off their cleats at their home field, Fleming Stadium, a hallowed park whose 73-year history has seen appearances by the likes of Elvis Presley—the King himself—and Mickey Mantle—a player notorious for gyrating his hips before every swing.
When not teaching visitors how to ride, Christina Hutton lavishes care upon her horses, including feedings, cleanings, and basic medical treatments. She lives on the farm, and rises early to watch over its expanse, which includes a seven-stall barn, large pastures surrounded by pillowy trees, and a jumping area with white fence hurdles rather than the sleeping serfs in old-timey jumping facilities. During the day, she and her team of instructors train novice and experienced equestrians in hunter and jumper techniques during private and group lessons. In addition to more studious pursuits, Christina and her staff also guide saddle-mounted pony rides, and coordinate arts, crafts, and games during children's birthday parties.