15 Years of Blue Ridge Festivals
BRO published our first annual Festival Guide back in 2004, and through the years we’ve witnessed major changes in the landscape of large-scale outdoor bashes. New festivals keep popping up across the country as an increasingly integral and influential part of the music industry. That means more competition among event promoters to book the right bands, who rely on fests for big pay days. This has resulted in higher ticket prices for attendees, who are in turn being more selective. All of this has led many to ask if our current golden age of festivals has created a bubble getting ready to burst.
With that in mind, this year we’re honoring the events that have stood the test of time. Within our annual guide of more than 100 Blue Ridge festivals, we’ve highlighted galas that have been thriving for a decade and a half or more, offering authentic experiences in music, craft beer, art, and adventure.
Silk Hope, N.C. May 3-6
Located on a 75-acre farm near the main cities of the North Carolina Triangle, Shakori Hills assembles an impressive line-up of roots acts for a long weekend of family-friendly fun. Headliners include Steve Earle and the Dukes, Rising Appalachia, Chicano Batman, and Ibibio Sound Machine. A fall version also takes place October 4-7.
Memphis, Tenn. May 4-6
Sounds ring through the streets of this historic musical city. This year Beale Street’s line-up features sets by Jack White, Queens of the Stone Age, Odesza, and Erykah Badu.
Atlanta, Ga. May 4-6
The Atlanta indie rock throwdown at Central Park hosts big names including Jack White, The National, David Byrne, Fleet Foxes, and War on Drugs.
Best River Party
Hot Springs, N.C. May 4-6
French Broad River Festival was started more than two decades ago by a group of local western North Carolina boaters with great taste in music. In its 20-plus years, the paddler party has remained one of the region’s favorite low-key fests, staying relatively intimate at the Hot Springs Campground but featuring an impressive line-up of roots music and plenty of chances to play on the river. Best of all, it’s a party with a purpose: Through the years the fest has raised boatloads of cash for river access protector American Whitewater and a handful of other local charities.
This year, catch sets by the Travelin’ McCourys, Jeff Austin Band, Billy Strings, Sol Driven Train, and Dangermuffin. Also, grab some friends for the French Broad River Raft Race, a nine-mile, class I-IV run that boasts distinction as the biggest mass start raft race in the South.
Berkeley Springs, W.Va. May 4-6
Groove into spring with this fun little fest that takes place at Sleepy Creek on the Potomac. Acts on the bill include Keller Williams, Jeff Austin Band, and Dead Winter Carpenters.
Albright, W.Va. May 4-5
This big annual waterfront party is filled with arts, boating, bluegrass, food, and fun, all to support the Cheat River watershed. Paddle in the Downriver Race, run a 5K, and catch tunes by Strung Like a Horse and Fletcher’s Grove.
Concord, N.C. May 4-6
For those who love to rock, this three-day festival at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Rock City Campgrounds will feature fist-pumping sets from Alice in Chains, Muse, Godsmack, Queens of the Stone Age, and many more.
Charleston, S.C. May 5-6
Widespread Panic, Sturgill Simpson, Margo Price, and Moon Taxi lead the bill at this brand new festival at Riverfront Park.
Best Multi-Cultural Experience
Black Mountain, N.C. May 10-13
Tucked within western North Carolina’s scenic Camp Rockmont, this family-friendly fest, celebrating 23 years in 2018, features one of the most diverse arrays of artistic offerings of any outdoor gala in the region, including live music from around the world, dance workshops, healing arts, and much more. At LEAF, well-known headliners like Ani Difranco, Rising Appalachia, and Snarky Puppy will play alongside African roots artists, Celtic singers, and representatives of many other cultures.
Beyond the tunes, LEAF is designed to be interactive, with more than 50 healing arts workshops on a range of topics from yoga and holistic health to rolfing and ancient earth skills. The fest also features diverse global cuisine, a wide selection of artisan goods, and a popular poetry slam and provides a ton of fun for kids centered around eight different activity-filled Family Adventure Villages. In addition to the festival’s annual fall return to Camp Rockmont (October 18-21), organizers will also host LEAF Downtown AVL at Asheville’s Pack Square Park on August 3-4.
Atlanta, Ga. May 11-13
EDM and hip-hop sounds will be blaring throughout Atlanta’s picturesque Central Park. Topping the bill: Marshmello, Zedd, Kygo, Ludacris, and Excision.
Huntersville, N.C. May 11-12
High-energy bluegrass bands will be picking and nearly three-dozen inventive craft breweries will be pouring at this popular event on Huntersville’s historic Rural Hill. Acts on the bill: Leftover Salmon, Chatham County Line, Acoustic Syndicate, and Larry Keel Experience.
Aiken, S.C. May 11-12
Aiken continues to up the ante at this annual progressive bluegrass bash. This year catch soaring string jams from Greensky Bluegrass, Leftover Salmon, Billy Strings, and many more.
Durham, N.C. May 17-20
The many innovations and lasting influences of sonic pioneer Bob Moog are honored at this festival in Durham featuring SOPHIE, Jenny Hval, Jamila Woods, and LCD Soundsystem’s Gavin Rayna Russom.
Gettysburg, Pa. May 17-20
This serious bluegrass festival celebrates its 76th running with Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, the Cleverlys, and Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen.
Richmond, Va. May 18-20
Held on the banks of the James River in downtown Richmond, Riverrock is a huge outdoor sports and music festival featuring plenty of opportunities to play and groove. Run the James River Scramble 10K, demo a SUP board, and catch sets by the Wood Brothers and the Marcus King Band.
Best Trail Fest
Damascus, Va. May 18-20
Every year since 1987, the sleepy southwestern Virginia town of Damascus has hosted a big reunion for Appalachian Trail thru-hikers and a wild party for everyone who loves the outdoors. Thousands of hikers, past and present, descend on Trail Town, U.S.A. to trade trail stories, wear crazy costumes and march in a parade, get goofy in a talent show, soak each other with water guns, check out a variety of gear booths, and get rowdy at the campgrounds in the evenings. The fest also features talks and presentations by A.T. legends of yesteryear, live music from regional roots acts, and plenty of displays of Trail Magic—with locals providing food and gear repairs for current hikers.
If you need a break from the crowds, you can always hit the trails. From Damascus there are plenty of paths that wind through the surrounding Mountain Rogers National Recreation Area, including the A.T., the Iron Mountain Trail, and the family-friendly Virginia Creeper Trail.
Gulf Shores, Ala. May 18-20
Where else can you feel the sand between your toes, as you bob your head along to the sounds of Kendrick Lamar, the Chainsmokers, the Killers, and Halsey?
Norfolk, Va. May 19
Tasty libations will be flowing on the waterfront setting of Town Point Park in downtown Norfolk. Pace yourself as you enjoy 150 beers and ciders from Virginia and beyond.
Coeburn, Va. May 24-26
A Memorial Day weekend tradition, Ralph Stanley II leads his legendary late father’s band, the Clinch Mountain Boys, at this bluegrass festival at the Stanley old home place in southwest Virginia.
Axton, Va. May 24-27
This intimate rootsy bash held on an idyllic farm near Martinsville features a top-notch line-up of national acts in a setting that’s right for the whole family. Bands this year: The Wood Brothers, JJ Grey & Mofro, and Robert Randolph & the Family Band.
Evans, Ga. May 25-26
This growing festival features a serious BBQ cook-off, an impressive line-up of craft beer, and killer tunes from Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Old Crow Medicine Show, and the Infamous Stringdusters—all to honor the late Joe Pond and his loves of ‘cue and bluegrass.
Cumberland, Md. May 24-27
DelFest honors living bluegrass legend Del McCoury—once a member of genre founder Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys—whose band headlines the festival in the scenic Potomac River Valley of western Maryland, with help from a generation-spanning line-up of top-notch pickers. This year the roster includes Old Crow Medicine Show, Greensky Bluegrass, and Richard Thompson. An intriguing addition this year is a set called the Bluegrass Congress, which features an all-star cast, including the host band, David Grisman, Ricky Skaggs, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, and Jerry Douglas. It’s sure to be a clusterpluck for the ages.
Best Urban Adventure Fest
Asheville, N.C. May 25-27
Props to the Mountain Sports Festival for evolving and thriving since its inception 18 years ago. This long-standing free fest in Asheville has changed its programming through the years, but it always features an impressive variety of mountain sports activities—from endurance races to fun fringe comps. This year’s full slate includes a 20K relay, a downriver race in the French Broad, a half-century cycling ride, disc golf, a beer mile, and much more. Attendees can also browse goods from gear vendors, dance to live music, and enjoy kids’ activities at the festival’s central area at Carrier Park.
Long Creek, S.C. May 25-27
If you like low-key music festivals, escape to South Carolina’s Sumter National Forest and catch tunes at the Chattooga River Resort & Campground. Jams from Eric Gales, Charlie Wooten Project, and People’s Blues of Richmond support the mighty Chattooga River.
Union Grove, N.C. May 25-27
Approaching its 95th year, the longest running fiddler’s convention in North America will once again feature the most authentic pickers in the mountains.
Brevard, N.C. May 25-27
This fun street festival in Brevard will feature live tunes from Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, Songs from the Road Band, and Fireside Collective, as well as a parade and 10K/5K run.
Stokesville, Va. May 25-28
Mountain bikers from around the region come together for a big hang at Stokesville Campground throughout a long weekend that includes some epic rides during the day and kicking back by campfires with fat tire-loving friends at night.
Winston-Salem, N.C. May 25-28
Held in conjunction with the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic, this growing festival features four days of music and family fun at Bailey Park. Bands on the bill include Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Cold War Kids, and Blues Traveler.
Syria, Va. May 31 – June 2
For the past quarter-century fans of the High Lonesome Sound have flocked to Graves Mountain Lodge, set near Shenandoah National Park, to enjoy a packed line-up of world-class pickers. This annual event offers a peaceful festival experience—the chance to sit and watch some of the best in bluegrass on a stage near a flowing creek with the Virginia Blue Ridge in the background. This year catch sets from the Steeldrivers, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, Blue Mafia, and Molly Tuttle.
Oak Hill, W.Va. May 31 – June 2
ACE Adventure Resort hosts a fest that mixes music and adventure, pairing a deep roster of jam bands with access to world-class whitewater and a top-notch trail network in West Virginia’s New River Gorge. Pedal, paddle, and listen to sounds from a stacked line-up that includes Umphrey’s McGee, Big Something, Aqueous, and Perpetual Groove.
Nelsonville, Ohio May 31 – June 3
With big names and small-town charm, this festival takes place in the hills of southeast Ohio on the campus of Hocking College. Bands: George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, the Decemberists, and Ani DiFranco.
Charleston, S.C. May 25 – June 10
Late spring is a great time to be in Charleston, as the Spoleto Festival fills the historic city’s theaters, churches, and outdoor spaces with a variety of music, dance, theater, and visual arts.
Asheville, N.C. June 2
The culminating event of Asheville Beer Week (May 25-June 2; avlbeerweek.com), this festival at Roger McGuire Green features a couple thousand craft beer fans tasting the goods from 30 breweries while soaking up some great local music.
Philadelphia, Pa. June 2
Head to the Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing for this one-day party hosted by live hip-hop masters and Tonight Show house band the Roots. Additional acts include Dave Chappelle, Lil Uzi Vert, Dirty Projectors, and the Diplomats.
Clayton, N.C. June 2
“Come for the art, stay for the music” is the call to action at this day of fun in downtown Clayton.
Myrtle Beach, S.C. June 7-10
Luke Bryan, Toby Keith, and Zac Brown Band lead this huge country bash on the beach.
Best Trend-Setting Mega Fest
Manchester, Tenn. June 7-10
Bonnaroo gets credit as a pace setter for the current explosion of multi-band mega fests that still continue to pop up across North America and beyond. In 2002 the festival’s founders booked a bunch of jam bands and bet that tens of thousands of music fans would travel to a 700-acre farm in the middle of Tennessee for a long, hot musical marathon. They were right, and although the fest’s line-ups have wildly evolved through the years, it still attracts a loyal tribe to one of the country’s most eclectic, high-profile music extravaganzas. This year the festival is covering everything from hip-hop and electronica to indie rock and Americana. Top billing goes to Muse, Eminem, the Killers, Bon Iver, Bassnectar, Future, and Sturgill Simpson.
Canton, N.C. June 8-9
Now expanded to two days, this fest features a rock solid line-up of tunes on a gorgeous 300-acre property surrounded by the Shining Rock Wilderness. Catch sets by Mandolin Orange, Shovels & Rope, the Steel Wheels, River Whyless, and the Jon Stickley Trio.
Southwest Virginia June 8-16
Appalachian roots run deep at this nine-day celebration of bluegrass and traditional mountain music, which features more than 25 concerts and 70 cultural experiences around southwest Virginia.
Galax, Va. June 8-9
Big-time names in bluegrass perform at this growing festival at Felt’s Park that was created to honor the late Houston Caldwell. Acts include the Del McCoury Band, Flatt Lonesome, and Blue Highway.
Crozet, Va. June 9
Starr Hill Brewery hosts this fest that will feature the best in hoppy brews from Virginia. This year the brewery is also adding a second festival in Roanoke on June 16.
Henderson, Ky. June 13-16
Grab a plate, then groove to some of the best blues artists in the country at this festival that’s been jumping for more than a quarter century. Delbert McClinton, Sugaray Rayford, Davey Knowles, and many more will take the stage at the scenic Audubon Mill Park on the Ohio River.
Beech Mountain, N.C. June 16
Head to the High Country for some of the best in progressive string band music this summer. The series will feature shows by the Wood Brothers (June 16), Trampled by Turtles (July 14), and Yonder Mountain String Band (August 11).
Charlotte, N.C. June 16
A new festival created as an extension of the U.S. National Whitewater Center’s popular Brew Stash Bash, Sol Fest still features plenty of delicious craft beer, as well as live tunes, yoga, and multiple water and trail races.
Mills River, N.C. June 16
It doesn’t get much more fun than day camp for beer-loving adults. Sip special Sierra Nevada beers created just for the event then challenge your friends to rounds of keg bowling, human foosball, and Strider bike cyclocross.
Leicester, N.C. June 21-24
Taking place just outside of Asheville, the largest primitive skills gathering in the country features a long weekend of outdoor discovery. At Firefly you can connect with your natural surroundings through classes and workshops in homesteading, survivalism, plant identification, and much more.
Norfolk, Va. June 22-24
Get a taste of New Orleans on the Norfolk waterfront. Enjoy your fill of crawdads, jambalaya, po’ boys, and beignets, as well as some of the best bands coming out of the Crescent City, including the Funky Meters.
Maryville, Tenn. June 22-23
Craft breweries from the South and beyond will be pouring their finest liquids at this annual festival in Maryville.
Williamsburg, Va. June 22-23
Virginia piano man Bruce Hornsby hosts a hometown gala at the Lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg with help from Alison Krauss, Amos Lee, and the Wood Brothers.
Owensboro, Ky. June 27-30
ROMP bridges generations of bluegrass musicians, mixing seasoned veterans like Alison Krauss and Ricky Skaggs with progressive string favorites including Leftover Salmon and Billy Strings.
New Martinsville, W.Va. June 29 – July 1
A big-time bluegrass hoedown anchors three days of good times in the Mountain State. Catch sets by the Del McCoury Band, David Grisman, the Steeldrivers, and Billy Strings.
Athens, Ga. June 29 – July 1
The hipness of Athens retreats to the countryside of 30-acre Cloverleaf Farm for a laid-back, intimate festival that features national indie roots acts playing in an open-air barn along with an artisan market, local beer and food, and even a Sunday morning Wiffle ball game.
Banner Elk, N.C. June 30
Taste the best of the High Country and surrounding areas at Sorrento’s Dining Complex in Banner Elk.
Durham, N.C. July 4 and 7
This annual event at Durham City Park features over 70 bands on four stages, along with great food and art—a big celebration of the great Eno River. Line-up TBA.
Rixeyville, Va. July 6-7
This growing festival features a mixture of electronica and jam acts at Verdun Adventure Bound. Catch sets by the Widdler, Of The Trees, Funk You, and Broccoli Samurai.
Somerset, Ky. July 13-14
This roots music bash—blending Americana, bluegrass, country, and indie folk—turns 25 this year. Lineup includes John Prine, Amanda Shires, JD McPherson, the Felice Brothers, and many more.
Scranton, Pa. July 12-14
The Disco Biscuits host this multi-band electronica rager at Montage Mountain. Additional acts: Bassnectar, Excision, Tipper, Lotus, and STS9.
Berryville, Va. July 12-15
Roots rock and jam bands dominate this low-key fest in the scenic countryside of northern Virginia. Line-up TBA.
Mount Solon, Va. July 13-15
Virginia string band the Steel Wheels host this annual gathering at Natural Chimneys Park in the Shenandoah Valley. The line-up is always impressive, featuring a full slate of Americana and bluegrass heroes, and the atmosphere is intimate and friendly, meaning parents can feel good about bringing little ones to the party. The festival’s two main stages are within sight of each other, and the entire grounds are configured into a close-knit village, making everything—vendors, beer garden, local food booths—easily accessible at any time. This year grownups can dig the sounds of Trampled by Turtles, Josh Ritter, Steep Canyon Rangers and I’m With Her while little ones enjoy activities in the Shady Grove kid’s area and get to hear music for youngsters on the Kinfolk Stage.
Louisville, Ky. July 13-15
Forecastle has grown to become one of the premier music festivals in the country, taking place every summer at Louisville’s scenic 85-acre Waterfront Park. Top national acts are featured alongside some of the city’s best cultural offerings, including an impressive bourbon showcase. Bands: Arcade Fire, Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, War on Drugs, and Father John Misty.
Birmingham, Al. July 14-15
Birmingham gets its own big band bash downtown at the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. Headliners: Arcade Fire, Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, and Griz.
Scranton, Pa. July 19-22
Jams will be plentiful at this festival, initially started by the Allman Brothers Band, that takes place annually at Montage Mountain. Fittingly, the event will feature one of the recently announced comeback appearances by former Brother Dickey Betts. Additional acts on the bill include the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh and his Terrapin Family Band, Umphrey’s McGee, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, and Gov’t Mule.
Baltimore, Md. July 20-22
Over 400,000 people regularly attend Artscape, America’s largest free arts festival. Situated in downtown Baltimore, the fest spans 12 city blocks and features an array of exhibits in fine art, music, dance, theater, and film.
Best Independent Music Variety
Floyd, Va. July 25-29
FloydFest was started back in 2002 as a way to showcase the unique arts community and progressive lifestyle in Floyd, Va., a small Blue Ridge town that’s fostered creatives in the South for the last half-century. At first, the festival, which sits outside of town on an 80-acre mountain plateau just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, drew modest crowds, but as word spread about the carefully curated music line-up, attendance started to swell. In its first year the festival featured Doc Watson and the African Showboyz and ever since organizers have continued to bridge Appalachian traditions with the melting pot of roots music from around the rest of the world. While the event has certainly grown, the independent spirit remains intact. “We’ve gotten national attention, but we’ve never wanted to be mainstream,” Kris Hodges, one of the founders, explained in BRO’s 2015 festival guide. “With FloydFest we’ve tried to forge our own path.”
This year’s line-up is heavy on Americana with the festival’s eight stages featuring Old Crow Medicine Show, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Gov’t Mule, the Infamous Stringdusters, and Hiss Golden Messenger. Set in a location that’s ripe for recreation the festival also offers a nice variety of adventure programming, including mountain biking, paddling, trail running, and disc golf.
Asheville, N.C. July 26-29
Extend your body and expand your mind at this event in downtown Asheville that features expert instructors and experienced teachers leading classes and workshops, along with a schedule of live music and outdoor activities like hiking and SUP Yoga.
Luray, Va. July 26-29
This relaxed festival on the Shenandoah River features a range of roots acts, including the reggae sounds of See-I, Cheick Hamala Diabate, and Black Masala.
Abingdon, Va. July 27 – August 5
For 10 straight days, creativity comes alive in Abingdon with events focusing on music, photography, visual and performing arts, antiques, and much more.
Green Mountain, N.C. August 9-11
This intimate camping fest along the Toe River features favorites in bluegrass, jam and funk playing in a family-friendly setting. Acts include Love Canon and Town Mountain.
Brevard, N.C. August 10-12
Oskar Blues celebrates craft beer in a can at this three-day festival, which takes place at the brewery’s REEB Ranch, a scenic property on the edge of Pisgah National Forest near Brevard. Enjoy the goods from 50 breweries, as well as live music, and organized running and biking events.
Axton, Va. August 11
Experience the best of the Smith River with a full day of paddling, fishing, running, and biking, along with vendor booths, live music, and fun for the whole family. The fest takes place at the Smith River Sports Complex near Martinsville.
Pittsboro, N.C. August 16-18
North Carolina’s Big Something hosts a three-day, multi-band blowout at Shakori Hills Community Arts Center.
Cockeysville, Md. August 18
Chances are it will be hot outside and onstage at this one-day fest just north of Baltimore; featuring an impressive line-up of jam rock, funk, and Americana that includes the Revivalists, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, and the Marcus King Band.
Asheville, N.C. August 18
Party on the banks of the French Broad River with local tunes and brews, all for a good cause, as proceeds benefit the watershed’s nonprofit advocate, RiverLink. Organizers also host the accompanying RiverMusic concert series throughout the summer (June 8, July 6, September 7).
Arrington, VA August 23-26
The country’s premiere jam marathon returns for its sixth straight year, blowing it out with two nights and four sets of Dead and Company, as well as Widespread Panic, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Umphrey’s McGee, Sheryl Crow, and many more.
Black Mountain, N.C. August 24-25
Pisgah Brewing Company is the place to be for this two-day progressive string and roots bash in Black Mountain. Acts include the Travelin’ McCourys, Jerry Douglas Band, Shooter Jennings, and Elizabeth Cook.
Johnson City, Tenn. August 24-25
The motto of this new festival is “Adventure for Everybody,” and that includes exploring the best of northeast Tennessee by boat, bike, or boot. Details are still coming together, but so far this fest is promising activities and entertainment at Founders Park in downtown Johnson City, as well as adventures in the surrounding mountains.
Floyd County, Va. August 30 – September 2
Approaching its seventh year, the Floyd Yoga Jam is a four-day celebration of yoga, art, and music. This year’s eclectic line-up includes Oddisee & Good Company, Phoebe Hunt & the Gatherers, and Dangermuffin.
Stuart, Va. August 30 – September 2
This low-key music and camping fest takes place on the picturesque Spirit Haven Farm in Patrick County.
Front Royal, Va. August 31 – September 2
Celtic-minded string outfit Scythian hosts this three-day roots music festival in Front Royal.
Abingdon, Va. September 1
Street performers of all stripes are the main event at this festival in downtown Abingdon.
Raleigh, N.C. September 6-8
An eclectic mix of indie rock and experimental acts converge in downtown Raleigh for this annual festival.
Greensboro, N.C. September 7-9
As the National Folk festival moves along after its scheduled stint in Greensboro, the tradition will be continued with this new event. The line-up is still to be announced but expect a wide array of authentic sounds from bluegrass and jazz to zydeco, blues and world music.
Brevard, N.C. September 7-9
Hosted by hometown favorites the Steep Canyon Rangers, this festival features a weekend of spectacular bluegrass at the Brevard Music Center’s open-air auditorium.
Chattanooga, Tenn. September 8-9
Tennessee tunesmith Drew Holcomb is moving his annual home-state festival from Memphis to Coolidge Park in Chattanooga’s scenic North Shore District. Holcomb and his band the Neighbors will perform, alongside headliners the Avett Brothers, the Head and the Heart, and Trampled by Turtles.
Summersville, W.Va. September 13-16
Started back in 1983 to celebrate the derailment of a dam project that would have disrupted flows of the mighty Gauley, this event brings together class V whitewater runs, live music, and boater shenanigans as the largest paddling festival in the world. In addition to plenty of river time, you can score some great gear deals in the whitewater marketplace.
September 14-16 New Castle, Va.
Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing, an adventure camp and retreat center near Roanoke, is the site of this emerging festival that features a range of roots music from bluegrass to alt-country, local food, and plenty of opportunities for outdoor playtime.
Best Pioneering Beer Festival
Asheville, N.C. September 15
Long before the current craft boom and the growth of its host city into a thriving beer mecca, Brewgrass was bringing independent breweries together for this annual celebration. Despite being surrounded by a growing number of beer bashes, this fest continues to hold court as a regional original, bringing 50 craft breweries together to pour their best liquids for a large crowd at Asheville’s Memorial Stadium. The full day of drinking is enhanced by a well-curated line-up of progressive bluegrass. Bands still to be announced.
Berryville, Va. September 20-22
This small Americana gathering in Berryville features some serious sounds along the scenic Shenandoah River. This year’s lineup includes Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Marty Stuart, Bela Fleck, and Molly Tuttle.
Wilkesboro, N.C September 21-22
The Kruger Brothers host this emerging Americana festival in downtown Wilkesboro. In addition to headlining sets by the fest founders, catch the Steel Wheels, the Roosevelts, Fireside Collective, and many more.
Best Roots Revival
Bristol, Tenn./Va. September 21-23
Known as the true Birthplace of Country Music, Bristol is a small Southern city where the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers made some of their first recordings in the 1920s. Every fall the border town on the Tennessee/Virginia line celebrates the lineage of root music through a lively street gala that incorporates artists from many generations. This annual fest features a range of acts from national headliners to regional upstarts to down home Appalachian pickers playing along the bustling main drag of State Street on 20 stages—outdoors and inside theaters and bars. This year the festival will feature sets from Old Crow Medicine Show, Taj Mahal, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, the Marcus King Band, and many more.
Asheville, N.C. September 21-23
Celebrate the culture of van life at the June Bug Retro Resort, located 15 minutes outside of Asheville in Weaverville. The two-night campout will include live music, food trucks, a kids’ area, and plenty of space to enjoy the variety of adventure vehicles.
Charlotte, N.C. September 22
Head to the U.S. National Whitewater Center for a long day of yoga, live tunes, and wine and kombucha tasting. This festival also features a trail race, climbing comp, and SUP yoga on the Catawba River.
London, Ky. September 27-30
Approaching 30 years of celebrating a Southern culinary staple, country music and delicious fried chicken dominate this thriving Kentucky festival.
Roseland, Va. September 28-30
Surrounded by scenic ridgelines in the central Virginia Blue Ridge, Devils Backbone Brewing Company Basecamp Brewpub and Meadows is the place to be for a long weekend of live music and camping, as well as plenty of delicious craft beers and organized runs and rides. This year’s line-up includes Tyler Childers, Rayland Baxter, Larry Keel, and many more.
Raleigh, N.C. September 28-29
Always full of High Lonesome heroes, this two-day festival closes the International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass Week in downtown Raleigh. Line-up still TBD.
Waycross, Ga. September 28-29
True country fans should not miss this tribute to one of the genre’s greatest songwriters. The spirit of the late legend will be revived with performances by the Kentucky Headhunters, Firefall, and many more.
Arrington, Va. October 5-7
This annual festival, at the expansive Infinity Downs in Arrington, about a half hour south of Charlottesville, always features an impressive roster of roots music acts (line-up TBD). In addition to the tunes, expect an experience full of local food, craft beer, and plenty of outdoor action, including the Blue Ridge Burn, the annual 10K/5K trail race hosted by Blue Ridge Outdoors.
Chattanooga, Tenn. October 5-6
Some of the best in bluegrass show up to pick at this lauded festival that takes place at Ross’ Landing. Best part—it’s completely free. Look for the line-up to be announced in late summer.
Chattanooga, Tenn. October 5-21
Celebrating the best of Chattanooga, this fest features mountain biking, trail running, paddling races, hikes, and outdoor activities for novices and seasoned athletes alike. At night, enjoy great food and music by the river.
Asheville, N.C. October 11-14
Returning for a second year, this festival hosted by Southern Raft Supply is a fun time for Onewheel riders of all levels, featuring races, comps, music, and more.
Roanoke, Va. October 12-14
The abundance of recreation opportunities in the Roanoke Valley are spotlighted at this annual fest, which turns River’s Edge Sports Complex into a mountain sports playground filled with running, biking, climbing, slacklining, paddling, and fishing. In addition to onsite activities, the event features a dozen races and comps, including a half-marathon, beer relay, kid’s bike race, and disc golf tournament.
Mt Vernon, Ky. October 12-14
Now five years running, this fest always features an interesting mix of bluegrass, indie folk and alt-country. Moving to the fall this year, the backwoods bash is also relocating to a new home, the Rockcastle Riverside campground and concert venue in the Daniel Boone National Forest. Line-up TBA.
Richmond, Va. October 12-14
Celebrate the rich roots of American culture through music, dance, storytelling, and food at this yearly Richmond staple born out of this city’s previous reign as the host of the National Folk Festival. Lineup and events TBA.
Mills River, N.C. October 13
Find your lederhosen and get ready to party with festbier, feasting, and dancing at Sierra Nevada in Mills River.
Banner Elk, N.C. October 19-20
Come to the High Country for some family fun in Banner Elk at this street festival featuring live music, craft and food vendors, and the annual woolly worm race.
Best Southern Institution
TBD, 2019 Wilkesboro, N.C
BRO’s Festival Guide comes out days after this festival finishes every year, but we’d be remiss not to mention this longstanding institution that’s beloved by acoustic music fans around the world. One of the country’s preeminent Americana festivals, started by late icon Doc Watson to honor his son and fellow musician Merle, who predeceased him. An estimated 80,000 people flock to the campus of Wilkes Community College for a huge line-up of artists that blur the lines between country, blues, bluegrass, and rock. This year’s roster featured Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Kris Kristofferson, Jamey Johnson, and Robert Earl Keen.