Oriental is one of nine incorporated municipalities in Pamlico County, North Carolina, USA. It is part of the New Bern, North Carolina Micropolitan Statistical Area. From the early 20th century Oriental’s economy was supported by lumber, fishing and farming. Train service stopped in the 1950s. The last sawmill closed in the early 1960s. Fishing, agriculture, some tourism and marine related businesses now lead the local economy. The town gained national publicity in 2016 when WalMart closed the only food store in town. Fishing trawlers still grace the small harbor, bringing in a catch of shrimp, crab or perhaps flounder depending on the season.
The nameplate of the city’s namesake Sailing Steamer Oriental has been lost, but a porthole from the ship is in the Oriental History Museum. The Oriental History Museum offers enlightening displays of Oriental’s early years. The Museum and the Oriental Tourism Board have combined to develop a 1.2-mile historical walking tour covering thirty-seven sites.
Two local festivals attract visitors. The Spirit of Christmas, always held in early December, consists of local businesses holding open houses with hot cider and treats, while the local churches hold Nativity plays and host Christmas music concerts. There is sometimes a boat parade in the harbor, where locals decorate their yachts with Christmas lights. The second large town festival, The Croaker Festival, is an arts and vendor event which benefits the county’s nonprofits. It culminates in a fireworks display held during the first weekend each July. In addition, the Oriental Rotary Club sponsors an annual catch-and-release tarpon fishing tournament the last weekend in July (2008 was the 16th year) and, on New Year’s Eve, the Oriental dragon makes a run through town twice (at 8 p.m. and at midnight).
The Oriental Cup Regatta is held the third Saturday of September, and there are boat races most Saturdays from May through September, and very informal ones most Wednesdays, too. Oriental hosts a Celebration of the Arts festival in mid-September, and has other art festivals throughout the year. The Town sponsors free evening concerts once each summer month which have been well attending by county residents and visitors from neighboring Craven and Carteret counties. The Oriental Tourism Board actively promotes weddings in Oriental and has published a Website that lists venues and service providers.