Prepare for a cultural carnival at these arts festivals:
Basics: In more than a decade in existence, FloydFest has grown from a special underground gathering to a festival in the national spotlight. Every year, crowds migrate to an unsuspecting 80-acre mountain plateau off the Blue Ridge Parkway for a four-day carnival of musical cultures from near and far. The festival bridges the gap between Appalachian traditions and the melting pot of independent roots music from the around the rest of the world.
Bands: This year FloydFest is mixing it up with plenty of string band favorites (Yonder Mountain String Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, Trampled by Turtles, and Railroad Earth), jam staples (Hot Tuna and the North Mississippi Allstars), and the Americana side of the indie scene (Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and the Lumineers). Also, check out the fresh faces on the rise: the Last Bison, Spirit Family Reunion, Yarn, and Field Report.
Set Break Escape: Finally utilizing the amazing piece of land just off the Parkway, the festival has added an impressive outdoor adventure program to its lengthy list of activities. The recently developed Moonstomper Mountain Bike Trail offers on-site singletrack with designated hours for riding and hiking. There’s also an organized 16-mile ride, the Belcher Mountain Beat Down, that features 1,700 feet of climb and offers shuttle service back to the festival. Additional offerings include a 5K on Sunday and organized paddling trips on the Little River.
Black Mountain, N.C.
Set in the shadow of the Black Mountains, the Lake Eden Arts Festival—better known as LEAF—features one of the most diverse arrays of artistic offerings of any fest in the region. Beyond the stellar line-up of roots music, check out healing arts workshops, a folk art show, a poetry slam, and dancing. Bands include Mavis Staples, Ozomatli, Steel Pulse, Peter Rowan, and Abigail Washburn. The best part—this fest returns again in the fall (October 17-20).
Spoleto Festival USA
May 24—June 9
As if Charleston didn’t have enough going for it. Add this 17-day marathon performing arts fest that includes music from various genres, dance, theater, and visual arts showcased at theaters, churches, and outdoor spots across the city.
Seedtime on the Cumberland
This annual down-home celebration of the arts in Appalachia brings together storytellers, musicians, artisans, and writers in the tiny, culturally rich town of Whitesburg.
The largest free arts festival in the country brings over 350,000 people to Baltimore to check out the work of artists, craft booths, and visual exhibits of sculpture and photography. Covering 12 city blocks, the fest also features live music and a full schedule of performing arts including dance, opera, theater, and film.
Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival
Silk Hope, N.C.
A cultural standby in the Triangle, Shakori Hills is a four-day fest that takes place in the spring and fall on a 75-acre piedmont farm. It blends some of North Carolina’s best roots musicians with national headliners, touches of world music, and an array of food, arts, and crafts.