MagazineMay 201050 Favorite Fests

50 Favorite Fests

Here is your definitive guide to festival fun: the 50 best bashes in the Blue Ridge.

French Broad River Festival
April 30 – May 2  Asheville, N.C.
Spend the day on the river and then kick back to some great live tunes from James McMurtry, Snake Oil Medicine Show, The Blue Rags, and more.

Beale Street Music Festival
April 30 – May 2  Memphis, Tenn.
Drive-By Truckers, Widespread Panic, Gov’t Mule, and many more will have historic downtown Memphis rocking.

Flowers in her hair.

Cheat River Festival
May 1  Albright, W.Va.
Each year, water- and music-loving folks rally to protect the Cheat River, an invaluable West Virginia resource.

Lake Eden Arts Festival
May 6-9  Black Mountain, N.C.
Baaba Maal, Donna the Buffalo, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and many more are slated to appear at this annual celebration of music, art, and dance.

Backyard Revolution Festival
May 8-9  Roseland, Va.
Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and eco-conservationist Adrienne Young hosts this celebration of sustainability in the fields surrounding Devil’s Backbone Brewery. The pastoral site in the mountainous countryside of Nelson County is a perfect spot to reconnect with the rural traditions of the Blue Ridge—be it through local food or roots music. This is an event that looks to the past for ways to craft a sustainable future. In addition to a hearty lineup of regional acts, the kid-friendly fest will also feature agrarian workshops and interactive how-to demonstrations that focus on a return to simpler times.

Beer, Bourbon, & BBQ Festival
May 8  Charlotte, N.C.
With three of life’s greatest pleasures in one festival, how can you go wrong?

Dominion Riverrock
May 14 – 15  Richmond, Va.
This downtown bash mixes outdoor sports and grassroots tunes. By day, you can get extreme with freestyle biking, kayak boatercross, and a mud run. By night, get your groove on to tunes from Robert Randolph and Grace Potter.

Trail Days
May 14 – 16  Damascus, Va.
You know your buddy who is hiking the A.T.? The one you haven’t seen in a couple months? Odds are, he’ll be in Damascus for Trail Days, the annual celebration of all things thru-hiking.

White Squirrel Festival
May 23 – 24  Brevard, N.C.
This fest will be nuts! Get your entry ready for the 3rd Annual Squirrel Box Derby and then kick back and listen to Steep Canyon Rangers, Jupiter Coyote, Dave Desmelik, and many others at this annual Brevard festival honoring the area’s favorite little furry creature.

Mountain Sports Festival
May 28 – 30  Asheville, N.C.
An adventure sports junkie’s paradise—the festival mixes a variety of comps with music and local brew. No mountain sport is left neglected, as this festival includes a century bike ride, climbing comps for all ages, and a kayak relay race. Runners come for the rugged Rock2Rock 10K Trail Run on Friday or the steep Sunset Stampede on Saturday. Through three days there are also a variety of fringe comps including disc golf and ultimate Frisbee showdowns.

Chickahominy Water Trail Festival
May 29  Williamsburg, Va.
Come celebrate the opening of the Chickahominy Water Trail, paddle in the Race to Rockahock, and enjoy some great live music.

BamaJam Music & Arts Festival
June 3 – 5  Enterprise, Ala.
It’s known as the redneck Woodstock. Zac Brown Band, Travis Tritt, Kenny Chesney, Train, Lucero, and many more will be rocking ‘Bama at the third annual Bama Jam.

Ocrafolk Music & Storytelling Festival
June 4 – 6  Ocracoke Island, N.C.
The Steel Wheels, Mandolin Orange, and others will be performing during this folk festival on idyllic Ocracoke Island.

Ashland Strawberry Faire
June 5  Ashland, Va.
Celebrate the strawberry harvest with live music, games, arts & crafts, and antiques—and lots of yummy strawberry goodies.

Virginia Blues & Jazz Festival
June 11 – 13  Hot Springs, Va.
Smooth jazz and scorching blues highlight this groovy festie. Scheduled to appear are, among others, Ruthie Foster, Marcia Ball, and Papa Grows Funk.

W.C. Handy Blues & Barbeque Festival
June 12-19  Henderson, Ky.
This free blues and barbeque fest honors William C. Handy, the Father of the Blues, and attracts blues lovers from around the country.

Richmond Vegetarian Festival
June 19  Richmond, Va.
All the healthy aspects of the vegetarian lifestyle will be on display at Azalea Gardens in Richmond’s Bryan Park.

June 19  Colfax, N.C.
Restaurants in the Triad compete to see who makes the best wings. Lend your taste buds to help them decide.

The Midsummer Fairy Festival & Fantasy Faire
June 19-20  Raleigh, N.C.
Travel back in time and experience period food, artisans, and games at this renaissance fest.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival
June 24 – 28 and July 1 – 5  Washington, D.C.
Celebrate the world on the National Mall this summer during one of the world’s largest free festivals.

White Lightning Festival
June 26  Cumberland Gap, Tenn.
Webb Wilder, Folk Soul Revival, and Eliza Lynn perform at this inaugural celebration of the most traditional of Southern crafts—moonshine makin’!

DC Caribbean Carnival
June 26 – 27  Washington, D.C.
The flavor of the Caribbean Islands floods our nation’s capital during this festive carnival.

Floyd Fandango Beer & Wine Festival
July 3 – 4  Floyd, Va.
Fine wine, fine beer, and fine music in Floyd County, one of the most beautiful places in Virginia.

Grandfather Mountain Highland Games
July 8 – 11  Grandfather Mountain (near Linville), N.C.
Got kilt? Scottish games, fare, music, and crafts highlight this annual celebration of all things Gaelic.

High Country Music Fest
July 16-17  Boone, N.C.
This two day bluegrass fest, now in its fourth year, offers fans great performances from John Cowan, Terry Baucom, Balsam Range, and many more.

July 16-18  Baltimore, Md.
The country’s largest free celebration of the arts will feature over 120 artists and the best in dance, theater, film, and much more.

Fun Fest
July 16 – 24  Kingsport, Tenn.
Kingsport’s annual summer bash offers live music, road races, fireworks, and more.

Georgia Mountain Fair
July 21 – 31  Hiawassee, Ga.
Travel back in time at this pioneer village celebration with period food, crafts, and games.

Bele Chere
July 23-25  Asheville, N.C.
Music lovers flood downtown Asheville in droves each year for this three-day festival. A wide and eclectic lineup is a guarantee.

Virginia Highlands Festival
July 24 – August 8  Abingdon, Va.
Southwest Virginia’s premier arts festival offers crafts, antiques, theater, music, and photography and art competitions.

Bayou Boogaloo & Cajun Food Festival
July 30 – August 1  Norfolk, Va.
Spicy food—and spicier music—abound during this annual Cajun-flavored fest.

Old Fiddler’s Convention
August 9 – 14  Galax, Va.
If you dig old timey fiddlin’, you don’t want to miss the 75th edition of this festival of the fiddle.

Brew Ridge Trail Music Festival
Roseland, Va.  August 21
Dance to the funky New Orleans sounds of Dumpstaphunk while you sample the goods from four Central Virginia microbreweries, including host Devil’s Backbone. It all goes down surrounded by vast mountain views at the base of Wintergreen. That’s quite a summer day.

Big Haynes Creek Wildlife Festival
August 28 – 29  Conyers, Ga.
Blending education and family fun, this festival highlights the beauty, wonder, and enjoyment the natural world provides.

September 11  Asheville, N.C.
Celebrate living green in Asheville. Come out and sample all things organic, from food to clothes to eco-friendly goods.

September 17-19  Summersville, W.Va.
The biggest river festival in the world is all about throwing down in the name of the mighty Gauley. In addition to plenty of running the river’s raging rapids, this is a rowdy paddler’s party with crazy howlin’-at-the-moon fun that has included late night boxing and mud wrestling.

Hoppin’ John Old Time & Bluegrass Fiddler’s Convention
September 17 – 18  Shakori Hills/Silk Hope, N.C.
Get to hoppin’ during this celebration of the Appalachian fiddlin’ tradition. Contests, contra dances, and more await fans of old time fiddle music.

Roanoke Greek Festival
September 17 – 19  Roanoke, Va.
If you can’t make it to Athens this summer, head to Roanoke for some great Greek cuisine, music, and dance.

September 18  Asheville, N.C.
Sample the brews of some of the best beer makers in the country and listen to some red hot bluegrass in Asheville’s Martin Luther King Park. This fest goes on sale in early May, and it will be sold out soon after.

Baltimore Book Festival
September 24 – 26  Baltimore, Md.
One of the biggest and best book festivals on the East Coast, with hundreds of book signings and author appearances.

The Atlanta Chili Cook-Off
September 25  Atlanta, Ga.
Kick it up a notch and indulge yourself with some of the South’s best chili at the largest chili cook-off east of the Mississippi River.

Wilmington River Fest
October 2-3  Wilmington, N.C.
This annual celebration raises awareness for the Cape Fear River environment. Food, crafts, road races, and family fun await.

Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival of Music & Dance
October 7 – 10  Shakori Hills/Silk Hope, N.C.
For music fans in North Carolina, the trek to Shakori Hills in October is a ritual. It’s a four-day biannual fest that takes place in the spring and fall on a 75-acre piedmont farm that blends some of North Carolina’s best roots musicians with national headliners, touches of world music from abroad, and an array of food and crafts. The lineup is still taking shape, but Samantha Crain & The Midnight Shivers are already on board.

Richmond Folk Festival
October 8 – 10  Richmond, Va.
Richmond’s historic waterfront bustles with the best in live music, entertainment, dance, and fine food and crafts.

Tybee Island Pirate Fest
October 8 – 10  Tybee Island, Ga.
Arrrrrrrrrr! Swashbucklers from all over will shiver their timbers at this pirate-themed fest, complete with music, costume competitions, grog, and grub.

38th Annual Chincoteague Oyster Festival
October 9  Chincoteague Island, Va.
Oysters prepared any which way are the order of the day. Celebrate the arrival of oyster season on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay.

Graves Mountain Apple Harvest Festival
October 9 – 10 and 16 – 17  Syria, Va.
Nestled up to the foothills of the Blue Ridge sits Graves Mountain Lodge, perhaps the prettiest place on Earth to eat some homemade apple butter from locally harvested apples.

Bridge Day
October 16  Fayetteville, W.Va.
One day per year, it is actually legal to jump off the New River Gorge Bridge. Come out and watch BASE jumpers take flight from nearly 900 feet over the New River.

Cleveland Apple Festival
October 16 – 17  Cleveland, Tenn.
Apple pies. Apple fritters. Apple cobbler. Apple butter. Apple cake. Apple jelly. Apple heaven.

The Barbeque Festival
October 23  Lexington, N.C.
Lexington has been dubbed The Barbeque Capital of the World, and over 100,000 folks show up to prove the claim.

Places to Go, Things to See: