Mentor Me

Advice for newcomers from longtime Caryites

Cary’s list of accolades is long, and the town draws people from all over the world for a host of reasons.

If you’re among Cary newcomers, and looking to settle into your new community, take heart: We’ve paired two longtime Cary residents with three newcomers just like you, for a mentoring session meant to welcome all of you, and kick-start your Cary experience.

The Insider: Becca Smith
The Newcomers: Gil & Marlene Cockfield

When the Cockfields decided to leave Connecticut after 40 years, they considered Gil’s home state of South Carolina, and their children’s homes in Washington, D.C. and Virginia.

North Carolina — and Cary — won out.

The retired schoolteacher and airplane engine builder enjoy walking and the symphony, and exploring their new hometown. We paired them with Becca Smith, director of marketing for Smith & Smith CPA, a member of Cary-Kildaire Rotary Club, and a Cary Chamber ambassador, for an insider’s look at their new home. Smith was once a newcomer, too.

“I’m originally from Eastern Tennessee, and moved to Cary in 2004,” she said. “I didn’t know anyone then, but made friends when moving into the Lochmere neighborhood, joining a church, and getting involved with the chamber. Now I love everything here! It’s been a fabulous 10 years.”

Smith introduced the Cockfields to one of her family’s favorite Cary spots, Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve. Known as a wildlife habitat, the preserve’s north-facing bluffs also produce vegetation unusual to this area, including Eastern Hemlock trees.

“You can find us here on the weekends, exploring the trails and looking for animals,” she said. “The Stevens Nature Center offers all kinds of educational things for families. And the whole place makes you feel like you are tucked away in the mountains. Our dog, Griffin, loves it too!”

Another of Smith’s favorite places is Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve; the Cockfields are avid walkers, and upon discovering the Swift Creep Loop here were more than impressed with the outdoor offerings of their new home. 

“We love to walk, and one of the things that attracted us to the Cary area is its many parks,” Marlene said of the town’s 30 park areas, offering a multitude of recreation options.

Gil took in the view while hiking the Swift Creek Loop at Hemlock Bluffs.

“I didn’t know Cary was so hilly!” he said.

The trio’s next stop was at Waverly Place, where Smith’s family enjoys the free concerts of Wind Down Wednesdays, held this year throughout June and July. The 2015 schedule features bands such as The Embers, Jim Quick and Coastline, and Band of Oz.

“This is a must-do for a Cary newcomer,” Smith said. “Our boys, Trent, 8, and Mark, 5, love the water play and awesome playset, and we have tons of friends who attend too. You can take a lawn chair, grab some dinner — there are lots of places to choose from — and spend an evening outside.”

While the Cockfields had shopped at Waverly’s Whole Foods store, they hadn’t explored the rest of the center. They were delighted to find out more about its shops, restaurants and events.

“This was a big help!” said Gil.

Another of Smith’s favorite local spots is Koka Booth Amphitheatre, where her family takes part in events all year long, from the July 4 celebration and Reel-ly Scary Halloween, to live music and festivals.

It was music to Marlene’s ear to learn that Booth also serves as the summer home of the North Carolina Symphony’s Summerfest Series, so the couple can continue enjoying symphonic sounds outdoors with a lineup that opens on May 23 with Rhapsody in Blue, and runs through July 9.

“The grounds at Koka Booth are beautiful, and intimate for concerts,” Smith told them, “and the loop around the lake is great for biking, running, jogging and exploring.”

Becca Smith’s Insider Advice

  • “The red light at High House Road and Cary Parkway can be LONG, so allow yourself plenty of time if you’re heading toward Prestonwood Country Club.”
  • “Categorize Cary by shopping centers: Crossroads, Park West Village, Stone Creek Village, Preston and Downtown. If you can get to these five places, you can get anywhere in Cary!”


The Insider: David Williams
The Newcomer: Amanda Williams

This newcomer-mentor duo just happens to share a Cary address: They’re newlyweds!

Real estate broker David met Amanda on a mission ship as part of an all-volunteer crew sailing the world to deliver books and aid to local peoples. They’ve since backpacked through the jungles of Africa, and married last June.

“Of course love would have taken me to Amanda’s home in Iowa, but all along I was thinking, ‘Please, please move to Cary!’” he joked of their long-distance courtship.

Cary native David Williams is seeing his hometown anew through the eyes of his bride, Amanda, who moved here last year from Iowa. One of their favorite fun spots is the disc golf course at Middle Creek Park, where Amanda has introduced David to the sport via the wooded 18-hole, par-3 course.

Now David is seeing his hometown anew, through his bride’s eyes. Amanda, meanwhile, has earned her real estate license and joined David’s firm, Cary Real, which serves southwest Wake County.

“I’m enjoying real estate. It’s a great opportunity to interact with many different people, and help them make an important decision,” Amanda said.

The couple also leads mission teams at Hope Community Church. Working together means they can travel together as well, on missions to places like Uganda and Haiti.

“We like to think that we sell houses here, so that we can help people build houses there,” David said.

As for her new home, Amanda said, “I love it here! In Iowa the roads follow a grid pattern, bordered by the Mississippi River, so it took me a while to figure out Cary. But I’m really impressed with the beautiful parks and how the greenway systems run through neighborhoods. That sets Cary apart.”

One of their favorite fun spots is the disc golf course at Middle Creek Park, where Amanda has introduced David to the sport via the wooded 18-hole, par-3 course.

Today’s Cary, David says, offers many such places for escape, and is much different than earlier versions of the town.  

“I grew up with Cary,” he said, “where Cary Crossroads is now, when the restaurants on Kildaire Farm Road were woods. Picture barns and silos!

“I have sold houses built in fields I used to farm with my dad. And while I used to say ‘Raleigh’ at conferences, now I can say ‘Cary’ even at national events, and people know about it.

Goodberry’s Frozen Custard is a casual date spot for the couple. David grew up nearby, when the restaurants on Kildaire Farm Road were woods.

“It’s no accident that Cary turned out to be one of the top places to live in the U.S.,” David said. “Early leaders made bold strategic decisions and laid the groundwork for Cary to blossom into a unique, well-planned community. As a Cary native, I love that my hometown has grown into a town with international flavor.”

Among the simple Cary pleasures David is also sharing with Amanda are casual dates at Goodberry’s Frozen Custard, an all-natural brand not available in Iowa.

Under the sun and over a parfait made of coconut, strawberry and chocolate custards, the two smile.

Newcomers or natives, all are welcome in Cary … where life is good.

David Williams’ Insider Advice

  • “Learn six roads and you can navigate Cary with ease: Maynard (a loop); Walnut (major shopping); Harrison (first Cary exit coming from the airport and home to Cary’s largest employer, SAS); Cary Parkway (make a giant C); and High House and Chatham.
    Knowing these gives you alternatives to the busier highways and dissects Cary.”
  • “Get involved with Town of Cary elected officials, and have a voice in its future.”
  • “Cary has pristine parks and many miles of walking trails called greenways. Pick up a copy of Bike & Hike Cary at Town Hall. It’s a great map and shows all the parks and trails so you can start exploring!”
  • “Embrace the international diversity of Cary. Connect with your international neighbors, try new restaurants, and explore the international grocery stores around Cary.”

Becca’s Best-of

  • Wind Down Wednesdays at Waverly Place;
  • $5 Tuesday Movies at Stone Theaters and $5 Taco Tuesdays at Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, both in Park West Village, Morrisville;
  • Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve and Stevens Nature Center; and
  • Koka Booth Amphitheatre events; and
  • Volunteering. “There are plenty of opportunities to give back within the community: Book drives, food collections for InterFaith Food Shuttle, sorting clothes at Dorcas Ministries, ringing the Salvation Army bell, helping with an Easter egg hunt at Life Experiences. My family loves to volunteer together and help others in the Cary community!”

David’s Faves

  • Movies by Moonlight and concerts at Koka Booth Amphitheatre;
  • The trails at Lake Lochmere (for residents only)
  • Disc golf at Middle Creek Park;
  • Golf at MacGregor Downs or Prestonwood Country Club; and
  • Mountain biking the trails at Lake Crabtree Park, Morrisville;
  • Ice cream at Goodberry’s Frozen Custard;
  • Taking newcomers on their first overview tour. “I love showing off my hometown and the high quality of life it offers!”

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