The Southeast Tourism Society (STS) is dedicated to promoting and developing tourism in its member states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. In 1985, in recognition of the unique, diverse and unparalleled events in the region, STS began the Top 20 Events award program. A Top 20 Award seeks to bring more publicity and recognition to the best events in the Southeast, whether it be media, attendees or both! STS selects the Top 20 events, per month, and publishes them on a quarterly basis. Recent winners are listed below. Learn more about Southeast Tourism Society at www.SoutheastTourism.org
Current Top 20 Events
July-September, 2016, Ice Cream & a Moovie at Chaney’s Dairy Barn, Bowling Green, KY, www.ChaneysDairyBarn.com
Nothing is more refreshing on a hot summer night in Kentucky than fresh homemade ice cream from the “Best Ice Cream Parlor” in the state, according to USA Today. From July to September, things get even sweeter at Chaney’s Dairy Barn. Savor your favorite flavor of ice cream while watching family-friendly movies projected on the side of the barn every other weekend at Ice Cream and a Moovie. Bring lawn chairs and a blanket to stake at out the best viewing spot. New this year, along with the movie, families will enjoy hayrides, a jumping pillow and corn maze. The sweetest part of all? Admission is free!
July 1-July 4, 2016, 55th Annual Alderson, 4th of July Celebration, Alderson, WV, www.Alderson4th.com
The historic town of Alderson, West Virginia hosts a Fourth of July celebration that attracts upwards of 9,000 people. The four days are packed with activities the entire family will enjoy. For the athlete in the group, there is a bike race, a 5k run, canoe races and track and field events. Children will enjoy an art contest, rides and a fishing derby. For music lovers, there are multiple live performances and a square dance. Don’t forget about the food! This festival tickles the taste buds, with a hot dog eating contest, an ice-cream social and a homecoming banquet. Don’t miss the grand finale, as the best fireworks display in all of West Virginia light up the summer night sky.
July 1-2, 2016, Coke Zero 400 4th of July Weekend, Daytona Beach, FL, www.DaytonaBeach.com
Race fans have long celebrated 4th of July weekend with racing under the lights at DAYTONA. 2016 welcomes the Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola back to its traditional Saturday slot on July 2nd—in the world’ first motorsports stadium. In addition to the pageantry and patriotism of the weekend, this fan-favorite event includes some of the most exciting racing of the season as drivers lock in three-wide battles, intent on the elusive DAYTONA victory. Pack up your cooler, swimming pool and RV and be sure to bring your family and friends. The holiday weekend and family prices truly make this a family event.
July 2-August 5, 2016, An Appalachian Summer Festival, Boone, NC, www.AppSummer.org
For over three decades, An Appalachian Summer Festival has offered a unique, enriching, world-class arts experience. Set in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, this rich and eclectic multi-arts festival draws in over 26,000 guests each year. With a large university as its backdrop, prepare to get a fun education in the best music, dance, theatre, film and visual arts. At the core of the festival’s mission is a commitment to artistic excellence, innovative programming, promoting young American artists, at affordable ticket prices. Recent performers have included The Beach Boys, Sheryl Crow, Indina Menzel, Little Big Town Dierks Bentley and Nickel Creek.
July 4, 2016, 4th of July Midnight Parade, Gatlinburg, TN, http://www.gatlinburg.com/events/details.aspx?id=93
The 41st annual Gatlinburg 4th of July Midnight Parade steps off at 12:01 a.m. on July 4, to the cheers of close to 80,000 spectators. For 40 years, the Parade has honored our nation’s Military Veterans and other U.S. Military Heroes with this classic, small- town American event. The First Independence Day Parade in the nation has earned national recognition from National Geographic, TripAdvisor and multiple Grand Pinnacle Awards by the International Festivals and Events Association. The 129th Army Band from the Army National Guard Unit in Nashville will lead off the parade with more bands to follow; some coming from as far away as Minnesota. Expect spectacular floats, giant balloons, entertainment, exotic cars, antique tractors and military vehicles. Festivities pick up again at noon with the River Raft Regatta, and conclude with a dazzling fireworks display in the heart of Gatlinburg.
July 4, 2016, Red White, Blue & You, Lake Charles, LA, www.VisitLakeCharles.org
This Independence Day, show your patriotism and join the fun at the 24th annual Red, White, Blue & You Festival. From our forefathers and veterans who fought for our freedom, to our current troops who now protect it, celebrate your liberty by participating in the exciting festivities. Break out the apron and enter the annual Apple Pie Baking Contest or hit the streets to catch the star-spangled street parade through downtown Lake Charles. After the parade, head over to the Lake Charles Civic Center Amphitheatre for a concert and sing-a-long with the Lake Charles Community Band. Don’t miss the grand finale: fireworks over beautiful Lake Charles.
July 4, 2016, St. Marys Independence Day Festival, St. Marys, GA, www.St.Marys.com
Celebrate the 4th of July in a small-town patriotic atmosphere in St. Marys, Georgia. Enjoy entertainment, arts & crafts, food vendors, kid rides, a kid’s bike decorating contest, a street dance and parade. The evening offers a river cruise and a fantastic fireworks display over the water—known to be one of the best shows in Southeast Georgia!
July 4, 2016, Wells Fargo Red, White and Blue, Greenville, SC, http://www.greenvillesc.gov/246/Wells-Fargo-Red-White-Blue-Festival
The Wells Fargo Red, White and Blue Festival continues to be the premier July 4th event in Upstate South Carolina, featuring one of the state’s largest fireworks displays. The free event makes downtown Greenville the celebration destination for more than 50,000 festivalgoers. Featuring a full evening of entertainment, including live music on two stages, a kids’ zone and a variety of popular food and beverage vendors, the evening is sure to be full of fun for all. New this year—Food Truck Rally. Enjoy the spirit of the holiday while chowing down on gourmet tacos, homegrown BBQ and everything in between.
July 8-9, 2016, 39th Annual Uncle Dave Macon Days Festival, Murfreesboro, TN, www.UncleDaveMaconDays.com
Uncle Dave Macon Days is an award-winning music festival that’s become a Murfreesboro, Tennessee tradition. The event is both a contest and celebration of Old-Time Music, dance and culture. The family-friendly event is held the second weekend of July on the historic grounds at Cannonsburgh Village, the only surviving part of Tennessee’s Bicentennial project. The festival entertains 25,000 guests with on-stage performances, arts and crafts demonstrations and dozens of impromptu “shade-tree pickings,” one of the festival’s prized attractions. New this year—guests can get their chance to make a Guinness World Record for “Largest Square Dance” in the town’s square.
July 9, 2016, Lake Charles Symphony Summer Pops, Lake Charles, LA, www.VisitLakeCharles.org
Bridging the gulf between rock n’ roll and classical music, the Lake Charles Symphony opens its 59th season with the music of The Eagles at the Lake Charles Civic Center Coliseum. Amplified by a full rock band and accompanied by singers Terry Brock, Randy Jackson and John Hines, creator Brent Havens conducts the ensemble with the Eagles’ amazing vocal harmonies surrounded by the orchestra. Summer Pops is a popular tradition in Southwest Louisiana. This truly unique performance will have guests dancing in the aisles.
July 14-17, 2016, Keeneland Concours d’Elegance, Lexington, KY, www.KeeneLandConcours.com
Keeneland Concours d’Elegance has brought the tradition of the Concours to Kentucky for 13 years. This classic event has brought the love of classic automobiles to the lush lawns of the Keeneland Race Track. The Concours kicks off with a one-of-a-kind Bourbon Tour on Thursday, The Hangar Bash on Friday, Saturday is the Concours d’Elegance and to wrap everything up, on Sunday the Tour d’Elegance take participants to explore some of the most beautiful areas of Central Kentucky. This year’s chosen “Marque” is Chrysler. This premier event benefits the Kentucky Children’s Hospital.
July 14-16, 2016, Virginia Lake Festival, Clarksville, VA, www.ClarkesvilleVA.org
The third full weekend in July brings guests from both near and far to Virginia’s only lakeside town—Clarkesville. The Virginia Lake Festival begins with free tethered hot-air balloon rides on Thursday evening for children 12 and younger. This event also includes a sand sculpting session, children’s entertainment, live music, a juried arts & crafts show, 210 vendors, antique auto show, helicopter rides, fireworks and more hot air balloons! New this year—Lakefest Idol. Area contestants will battle it out on stage in a singing competition to win the title.
July 15-16, 2016, Cajun French Music & Food Festival, Lake Charles, LA, www.VisitLakeCharles.org
Can’t get enough gumbo or jambalaya in your life? Well, head on over to the 29th annual Cajun Music & Food Festival to fill up on favorite Cajun specialties. Every year the festival aims to preserve the Cajun traditions and heritage through music, dancing and of course—food! This year, enjoy a crackling cook-off, live Cajun inspired music, crafts booths, games, auctions and a Sunday morning Cajun French Catholic Mass complete with a Cajun choir.
July 15-23, 2016, Kingsport Fun Fest, Kingsport, TN, www.FunFest.net
For 36 years, Kingsport has celebrated the outdoors and summer time fun with a 9-day festival. At Fun Fest, guests will enjoy over 100 different activities encouraging active outdoor play and fun. Visitors can participate in the world-famous 8k night time road race, “Crazy 8’s.” Runners will enjoy the thrill of dashing into the high school football stadium under the bright lights and seen by all on the large video screen. Don’t miss the finale weekend, which includes the Oldsmobile Club of America National Meet, evening concerts, hot air balloons and even a gigantic fireworks display.
July 15-16, 2016, 34th Annual Norfolk Waterfront Jazz Festival, Norfolk, VA, https://festevents.org/events/2016-season-events/norfolkwaterfrontjazzfestival/
Hampton Road’s longest running outdoor Jazz Festival, presents two nights of smooth music along the Downtown Norfolk Waterfront in Virginia. On a warm summer evening, relax to the legendary sounds of top national Jazz and R&B recording artists. Past performances have included Earl Klugh, Pamela Williams and many others. This popular festival features a variety of seating and ticket options for all to enjoy.
July 16-17, 2016, 18th Annual Butternut Creek Festival, Blairsville, GA, www.ButternutCreekFestival.com
The 18th Annual Butternut Creek Festival is a family-event nestled along the shady banks of Meeks Park in lovely Blairsville, Georgia. Come explore a juried show of 65 of the Southeast’s finest craftsmen artists displaying their fine works. Organizers limit the number of vendors to ensure products are of the highest quality. Sway to the live music while munching on the area’s tastiest foods, and be inspired by both the natural and artistic beauty the Butternut Creek Festival has to offer.
July 21-July 23, 2016, Folkmoot USA, Waynesville, NC, www.FolkmootUSA.org
Folkmoot USA, the official North Carolina International Folk Festival, is celebrating its 33rd year in Wayenesville and surrounding Western North Carolina communities. This two-week event features live music, vibrant cultural costumes and dance heritage from around the globe. Folkmoot USA is unique because it allows individuals the opportunity to experience world culture in their own community. Highlights of the 2016 Festival include the festival opening ceremony, a parade on Main Street, Many Cultures Day and a procession in downtown Asheville. New this year, Folkmoot is producing a second outdoor event featuring dance lessons, international foods, games and staged performances.
July 22-31, 2016, W.C Handy Music Festival, Florence, AL, www.WCHandyMusicFestival.org
The W.C. Handy Music festival is a 10-day celebration of the musical heritage of Northwest Alabama, honoring Florence native W.C. Handy. There are over 100 events to choose from, taking place across three counties—in parks, restaurants, libraries, museums, on street corners, churches and others. The 35th celebration will feature traditional events such as a play honoring the festival’s namesake, as well as a headliner concert, listening rooms, “Handy Night,” athletic events, children’s activities and more.
July 23, 2016, Gulf Brew, Layfayette, LA, www.AcadianaCenterForTheArts.org
What began with 15 beers and a few employees in the parking lot of Acadiana Center for the Arts in 2007 has turned into one of Lafayette’s greatest annual events. With over 120 beers, live music, great food and community involvement, Gulf Brew is the place to be for cold beer, hot music and a great cause. The event features craft brewers from across the country as well as backyard home brewers from around the state, all happy to share their vast knowledge of their beloved drink. Brew Books list descriptions of every beer served at the event, so guests can make an informed decision when selecting their brew. Gulf Brew is ACA’s main fundraiser and every ticket purchased funds their mission to foster arts and culture in the local area.
July 27-July 30, 2016, Sandy Lee Watkins Songwriter’s Festival, Henderson, KY, www.SandyLeeSongFest.com
The Sandy Lee Songwriters Festival is four nights of intimate, acoustic performances by over 30 of Nashville’s award-winning singer/songwriters. Sandy Lee Songfest provides an opportunity for songwriters and musicians from all over the world to have their songs heard, and for the public to listen to songs they know performed by the original hit-making writers who created them. Guests can also participate in workshops where they can bring their own songs and writings to be critiqued by the well-known writers. This unique festival is held throughout historic downtown Henderson, in sports bars and restaurants, all within walking distance of beautiful riverfront parks, local shopping and dining.
August 3-6, 2016, Shelbyville Horse Show, Shelbyville, KY, www.ShelbyvilleHorseShow.com
The Shelbyville Horse Show features American Saddlebred at its finest. The event is in its 27th year and is known for showcasing accomplished riders to novice horsemen, providing entertainment for all. The Horseman’s Club, (a two decker open air pavilion) will be serving exquisite food and drink from around the Bluegrass State helping to make this a first-class event. Indulge in unlimited food and drink in the Horseman’s Club for only $45. Dining and vendor options abound with horse-related fair and admission to the show is only $5.
August 5-6, 2016, Lewisburg Literary Festival, Lewisburg, WV, www.LewisburgLiteraryFestival.org
The Lewisburg Literary Festival is a vibrant two-day event that features visiting authors, outdoor art, music and performance artists, all inspired by literature. Lewisburg is transformed into a scene out of a play with outdoor literature themed art installations which attendees enjoy as they meander through downtown. Writers from as far away as Seattle join local and regional authors for book signings and readings, as well as writing workshops. The littlest readers can enjoy a children’s book breakfast and book readings by favorite children’s characters and authors. Each year the festival changes its featured authors. Past authors include Kathryn Stockett, who penned “The Help” and Homer Hickam, Jr. who wrote “The Rocket Boys.”
August 5-6, 2016, Main Street Music Festival, Albertville, AL, www.MainStreetMusicFestival.com
The city of Albertville has a rich musical heritage. With many citizens going on to have successful careers in the entertainment industry, it was easy for city leaders to choose a theme when creating a festival for all to enjoy. Main Street Music Festival grew from 5,000 attendees in its first year to 47,500 in its seventh year. The two-day event features local and national acts with various musical talents. Enjoy star-studded performances by 38 Special, Diamond Rio, Phil Vassar, Jo Dee Messina and Lonestar. Guests will also enjoy a delicious variety of food trucks, inflatables, chicken races, a 5k run and more.
August 5-6, 2016, Piney Chapel American Farm Heritage Days, Athens, AL, http://www.northalabama.org/do/festivals-events/detail/piney-chapel-american-farm-heritage-days
Piney Chapel American Farm Heritage Days is an annual event held in the Piney Chapel community just north of the city of Athens. It showcases some of the rarest and most beautifully restored antique farm equipment and machinery from the past, such as, hit & miss engines, horse drawn equipment, tractors, antique trucks and more. Friday starts off with a 20-mile tractor ride through Limestone County’s countryside and ends back at the fairgrounds with live Bluegrass, Country and Gospel music. Saturday events include a pedal pull for the kids, skillet throw for the ladies and a Parade of Power. There will also be flea market vendors with a wide variety of items such as antiques, arts & crafts, toys and full concessions as well.
August 8-28, 2016, Kentucky State Fair, Louisville, KY, www.KYStateFair.org
The Kentucky State Fair is an 11-day celebration of the history, heritage and culture of the Bluegrass State. America’s largest indoor fair uses over 1.2 million square feet of contiguous exhibit space at the Kentucky Exposition Center. Rooted in agriculture, the Kentucky State Fair has grown into a trade and public education exposition, as well as a major entertainment venue. Free concerts are held every evening in the Cardinal Stadium and the Main Stage Concert Series is held in historic Freedom Hall. The World’s Championship Horse Show, held during the Fair, is the world’s richest and most prestigious Saddlebred event. This year, The Kentucky State Fair is promoting one of the state’s signature products—bourbon. Along with bourbon, fairgoers will get a taste of delicious local food and entertainment—all in a new and unique venue.
August 12-13, 2016, Bluegrass in the Park Folklife Festival, Henderson, KY, www.BluegrassInThePark.com
Bluegrass in the Park Folklife Festival is one of the oldest on-going free Bluegrass festivals in the United States. Coming off its 30th anniversary celebration in 2015, this rockin’ event has another amazing line-up for 2016. In addition to two days of amazing music, the festival hosts several unique sporting and leisure events: disc golf, pole vaulting, a community Breakfast in the Park and an afternoon full of historical folk activities intended to educate guests about the region’s rich traditions. A family-friendly atmosphere, great food, concessions, inflatables and a beautiful riverfront setting make the Bluegrass in the Park Folklife Festival a can’t-miss event for all ages.
August 12-21, 2016, State Fair of West Virginia, Lewisburg, WV, www.StateFairOfWV.com
The State Fair of West Virginia is the largest multi-day event in the state, attracting more than 160,000 visitors each year. With top-name musical acts, carnival rides, livestock shows and the best fair food around, the State Fair is a family tradition that’s fun for all ages. This year, expect even more free entertainment, including Kachunga and the Alligator Show, the Rhinestone Roper and Mountain Music Trail Day on Center Stage. This 10-day action packed event also has the more traditional fair findings, such as, harness racing and the annual draft horse pull set for Friday, August 19.
August 12-21, 2016, Staunton Music Festival, Staunton, VA, www.StauntonMusicFestival.org
Described as “Virginia’s world-class music festival” by Travel + Leisure and a “Critic’s Pick” by Anne Midgette of The Washington Post, the Staunton Music Festival attracts over 60 of the world’s finest chamber music performers for 10 days of concerts each August. The 20 concerts present innovative programs from the Middle Ages to world premiers. All events take place in venues of first-rate acoustics and historical significance and the entire Festival unfolds throughout Downtown Staunton—voted “One of America’s Best Small Towns” by Smithsonian Magazine. The Festival opens with a boisterous Handel Extravaganza, including special Bluegrass guests during intermission; ten days later the Festival concludes with a period-instrument performance of Bach’s powerful Mass in B Minor. This year, the Staunton Music Festival will welcome a dozen new musicians to join roughly 50 returning performers from last season.
August 13, 2016, August Concert and Wing Festival, Suwanee, GA, www.Suwanee.com
At the August Concert and Wing Festival in Suwanee, Georgia, the wings are hot and the music even hotter! Sample and savor wings from some of Suwanee’s finest restaurants, while zesty tunes fill the warm summer air starting at 5 p.m. Toad the Wet Sprocket, best known for 90’s hits Walk On the Ocean and All I Want, headlines this flavorful festival at 8 p.m. This event is family-friendly and free!
August 13, 2016, Bright Lights, Belhaven Nights, Jackson, MS, www.GreaterBelhaven.com
Bright Lights, Belhaven Nights is an annual street festival promoting the greater Belhaven historic neighborhood, one of the original and most unique neighborhoods in Jackson, Mississippi. Festival activities include shopping at artisan booths, children’s area, dancers and a fun variety of musical acts. There are five stages, each featuring a unique style of music, including Blues Jazz, Bluegrass, Celtic, Folk and Indie Rock. The Children’s area offers various arts-based activities, including space jumps, entertainment from local museums and a clown. Local restaurants and chefs provide a tasty selection of food. Come enjoy music and fun under the twinkling lights at Bright Lights, Belhaven Nights.
August 13, 2016, 16th Annual Norfolk Latino Music Festival, Norfolk, VA, https://festevents.org/events/2016-season-events/latino-music-fest/
The sun goes down, the stars come out and the largest outdoor and waterfront dance floor in Hampton Roads heats up with the hottest salsa, meringue and guaguanco dancing on the East Cost. Live explosive Latin music by local and regional recording artists will fill Town Point Park and keep guests moving all night long! This cultural celebration not only features great music, it also serves up mouth-watering Latin cuisine and libations! New this year—get more variety of those exciting Latin dishes, designed dance instruction, a marketplace with unique artisan crafts and outdoor games.
August 13, 2016, YWCA Resolve Family Abuse “Girls Night Out,” Charleston, WV, www.gnowv.com
Girls Night Out is more than just a party; it’s a celebration of women helping women. Every August, more than 1,000 of Charleston’s leading ladies, business leaders, elected officials, sponsors and volunteers come together to support battered women/men and their children. Since it began in 1998, Girls Night Out has raised close to $2 Million to support the YWCA Charleston’s Resolve Family Abuse Program. Each year, the monies raised at Girls Night Out plays a significant role in the YWCA Resolve’s ability to serve victims and their families.
August 19-20, 2016, Asheville Wine and Food Festival, Asheville, NC, www.AshevilleWineandFood.com
The Asheville Wine and Food Festival is an original event designed to showcase Western North Carolina’s rich culinary offerings. The annual event promotes the chefs, restaurants, vineyards, breweries, distilleries and farms that serve as the foundation of Asheville’s Foodtopian Society. This year’s Asheville Wine and Food Festival event includes a dessert tasting on August 19 and the Grand Tasting on August 20. Both events highlight exceptional wines, restaurants, craft beers, spirits and handcrafted artisanal food for a weekend of gourmet indulgence. Held in the heart of Asheville’s lively downtown, festival attendees can taste their way through the event and then explore the city. Stroll down Asheville’s beautiful streets while enjoying independent farm-to-table restaurants, colorful street performers, local retailers and attractions.
August 19-20, 2016, Franklin County Watermelon Festival, Russellville, AL, www.FranklinCountyAL.org
Downtown Russellville, Alabama is home of the Franklin County Watermelon Festival. The Watermelon Festival began in 1980 as a way for local merchants to draw more people into the area. A local farmer agreed to grow the watermelons to share on the hot summer day. Since then, the festival has grown into a two-day event with tractor, car & truck shows, a BBQ cook-off, and musical acts. Live entertainment is enjoyed in the historic Roxy Theatre and on the outdoor main stage. Watermelon banners, festival food and vendor booths greet the more than 35,000 guests. The Franklin County Watermelon Queen awards prizes for the watermelon contests: best dressed, largest weighing, best tasting, most unusual and seed spitting. True to southern hospitality, complimentary fresh slices of red or yellow-meated watermelon are served both days. Don’t forget to try the Watermelon Tea!
August 19-27, 2016, Wilson County Fair, Lebanon, TN, www.WilsonCountyFair.net
The Wilson County Fair is a nine-day, fun-filled family event in Lebanon, Tennessee. Exciting midway rides and games, daily concerts and entertainers, livestock and animal shows, commercial and competitive exhibits; all of these come together for a great summer-time experience! Guests can enjoy tractor pulls, demolition derbies and a mule pull. Children can explore life on the farm through activities and exhibits in the Ag-Venture Barn. Visitors of all ages will enjoy Fiddlers Grove Historical Village, with its costumed demonstrators and artisans showing crafts and techniques used by early settlers of the area. Topping it all off—finger-lickin’ food selections from dozens of vendors and spectacular nightly fireworks shows.
August 20, 2016, Arts & Crabs Fest, Lake Charles, LA, www.VisitLakeCharles.org
Each August, Arts & Crabs Fest features an extensive crab and beer tasting, an art walk, and live music to offer an interactive and educational experience of Southwest Louisiana’s seafood and culture. This popular event sells out every year! Tickets range from $30-$35 and give festival-goers access to an extensive crab and beer tasting. The tasting features ten restaurants, each offering a crab dish that is representative of their cuisine’s styles and personalities. Typical dishes include crab cakes, crab au gratin, crab ceviche and crab gazpacho. Each crab dish will be paired with a beer sample. Similar to a wine pairing, each Louisiana beer will complement the unique flavors and textures in every dish.
August 20, 2016, Thin Mint Sprint, Suwanee, GA, http://thinmintsprintlani.wix.com/-thin-mint-sprint
Come run your cookies off at the Thin Mint Sprint in Suwanee, Georgia! This family-fun event features a 5k race (a Peachtree Road Race qualifier) a one-mile fun run and vendor exhibits. Team outfits and costumes are encouraged! All proceeds benefit Girl Scouts of Atlanta, which serves girls from 34 metro Atlanta areas. Registration is open to all.
August 24-28, 2016, Smoky Mountain Songwriters Festival, Gatlinburg, TN, www.SMSWF.com
The sounds of some of the biggest hits in Country, Gospel and Bluegrass music will resonate through the streets of Gatlinburg when the Smoke Mountain Songwriters Festival comes to town August 24-28. The songwriters not only play their country hits, but also tell guests the story behind the writings. This year, festivalgoers have the opportunity to attend a special workshop where they can write a song with the assistance of one of the hit songwriters.
August 25-27, 2016, Winterville Watermelon Festival, Winterville, NC, www.WatermelonFest.com
Watermelon in North Carolina is so special that it’s celebrated annually during the Winterville Watermelon Festival. Since 1985, this three-day festival draws watermelon fans from all over the region with its free slices of watermelon, carnival rides, watermelon-themed events and free concerts. The festival also includes a parade, Purina Performance Dog Show, food and commercial vendors, crafts, and plenty of activities for the kids—making this festival an ideal event for the whole family. This year, expect more concert artists and additional activities for all ages, like the Family Fun Zone and Antique Car Show.
August 26-September 14, 2016, Perspectives: Georgia Pottery Invitational, Watkinsville, GA, www.OCAF.com
The Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation’s Annual Perspectives: Georgia Pottery Invitational is one of the largest pottery events in the southeast region. This year the invitational will showcase works of 50 invited Georgia potters. The twenty-day event begins with an evening gala on Friday, August 26. Gala attendees will enjoy tasty food, live jazz and have the opportunity to preview and purchase fine art. This year, potters and visitors alike will get an education at the invitational. Potters will be able to attend a workshop featuring a panel of experts who will speak on the business of being a potter. Additionally, there will be an education exhibition for guests that will feature works from renowned potters such as Don Reitz, Peter Voilkos and Frans Wildenhain.
September-October, 2016, Blowing Springs Farm, Flintstone, GA, www.BlowingSpringsFarm.com
Gather the family and enjoy a day full of fall-fun at Blowing Springs Farm in Flintstone, GA. Get lost in the corn, go on a hayride, enjoy a homemade funnel cake, take aim with the corn slingshots and get up close and personal with farm animals at the Critter Corral. Guests will also enjoy the playground, a variety of tasty foods and the world-famous Enchanted MAiZE, which has a new design every year for the family to explore and make lasting memories.
September 1-5, 2016, Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival, Morgan City, Louisiana, www.ShrimpAndPetroleum.org
This Labor Day Weekend, Louisiana’s oldest chartered harvest festival is scheduled to celebrate 81 years of tradition and family fun. The Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival will be held in Morgan City, only 90 minutes from New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette. Most festivities are held in the beautiful Downtown Historic District and are free to the general public. There’s nothing like “home-style” Cajun cooking, and you’ll find the best at the fest! Enjoy spicy jambalaya, fried alligator and of course…shrimp! Great food, continuous live music, children’s activities and fun events of all kinds highlight this five-day extravaganza.
September 1-October 9, 2016, Virginia Beach Neptune Festival, Virginia, Beach, VA, www.NeptuneFestival.com
The Virginia Beach Neptune Festival is a month long community celebration held annually on the shores of Virginia Beach. Events are held each weekend and culminate with the Festival’s Boardwalk Weekend Celebration at the end of the month. Earlier events include a two-day Virginia Wine Festival, a Senior’s Gala, a Virginia Symphony Concert, an End of Summer Bay Bash, a Ladies Golf Tournament and a Craft Beer Festival. Enjoy 275 Artists/Crafters, 50+ vendors, four stages of diverse musical acts, an 8k/5k Run, a Grand Parade with 100+ units and a spectacular fireworks display over the Atlantic Ocean. Don’t miss the Neptune’s International Sand sculpting Championship—a world-class competition featuring 32 sculptors from around the globe.
September 2-5, 2016, North Carolina Apple Festival, Hendersonville, NC, www.NCAppleFestival.org
Hendersonville is the official home of the 70th Annual North Carolina Apple Festival, a four-day celebration in honor of the North Carolina Apple. The NC Apple Festival features a street fair on Historic Main Street, continuous live music, arts & Crafts, apple growers selling apple products, children’s activities, delicious food and to top it all off—The King Apple Parade. Come chow down on fried apple pies, apple cakes, apple butter and apple cider. Capture the spirit of this hometown celebration that has something for the whole family!
September 3-5, 2016, Marietta Art in the Park, Marietta, GA, www.ArtParkMarietta.com
The 30th annual Art in the Park Festival is one of the best fine arts show in the Atlanta area, featuring an Artist Market with 175 nationally ranked artists from both near and far. With fine arts and crafts available for purchase, Art in the Park offers visitors a fun opportunity to meet and talk with artists and even see some works in progress. This family-friendly weekend also includes the Chalk Spot street art display, the Children’s Art Alley with plenty of free make-and-take art stations, the award-winning famous Painted Pots and the Atlanta Street Music Café. Located in historic downtown Marietta, the area is rich with museums, theatres, art galleries, unique shops and plenty of outdoor dining all within the few minutes of the festival.
September 9-10, 2016, Oka Kapassa Native American Festival, Tuscumbia, AL, www.OkaKapassa.org
Oka Kapassa, a special Native American gathering celebrates the culture and traditions of American Indians who once thrived in Northern Alabama. The festival brings numerous Native American artisans, performers, and cultural heritage demonstrators, who exhibit their areas of expertise, including: shell carving, pottery, Native American jewelry, storytelling, basketry, silver-smithing and flute making. Festival attendees will also experience Native American heritage, culture and history through storytellers, hoop dancers and musicians.
September 9-11, 2016, Holley LS Fest 7, Bowling Green, KY, www.LSFest.com
Holley LS Fest celebrates everything powered by the GM LS engine, including racecars, street rods, muscle cars, trucks and anything else! Experience full throttle fun at the drag racing series, autocross, 3S challenge, show-n-shine and more. Taking place at Holley Performance’s hometown track of Beech Bend Raceway, one of the oldest and most nostalgic drag strips in the country, LS Fest is geared for auto enthusiasts of all kinds. Held in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the home of the Corvette and a motorsports haven, LS fest is the epitome of high-speed action.
September 9-11, 2016, KY State BBQ Festival, Danville, KY, http://KentuckyBBQFestival.com/
From 5,000 visitors in its first year, to 35,000 visitors in its fifth year, The KY State BBQ Festival has set records and had undeniable success. There are a few things about this festival that make it so unique. The first is that it is an EATING Event. Most BBQ Festivals that have competitions do not allow the festivalgoers to eat and enjoy the amazing food cooked by the pit masters. Not the case in Danville, KY! The amazing smoky aroma starts Thursday evening and tempts attendees all weekend long. BBQ sundaes, nachos and full racks of ribs—you name it and this festival has it! To complement the tasty dishes, guests will also enjoy fantastic Blues music.
September 9-11, 2016, MainStrasse Village Oktoberfest, Covington, KY, www.MainStrasse.org
Oktoberfest is a great way to enjoy a beautiful day in the historic neighborhood of MainStrasse. Unique arts & crafts, tasty German & international foods, top-notch music throughout the festival area, a Kinderplatz for children and an amusement midway, means this festival has something for everyone! Guests can also check out year-round shops and restaurants or watch the amazing street chalk art contest on Saturday. This year, enjoy more Bier Gartens and additional artists. This unique Kentucky festival has earned national recognition by Top Events USA and attracts approximately 125,000 guests.
September 9-18, 2016, Tennessee Valley Fair, Knoxville, TN, www.TNValleyFair.org
The Tennessee Valley Fair is one of the state’s largest multi-day events attracting approximately 150,000 guests each year. The 97th annual fair is known for its innovative exhibits, livestock shows, live concert series, action sports, exciting midway rides and a variety of fun fair foods. This year, enjoy tractor pulls, a demolition derby a rodeo and much more.
September 10-11, 2016, 35th Annual Biloxi Seafood Festival, Biloxi, MS, http://www.gulfcoast.org/event/35th-annual-biloxi-seafood-festival/4483/
The Biloxi Seafood Festival is a celebration of the seafood heritage of the City of Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. This two-day celebration features live entertainment, kid’s activities, arts and crafts vendors and plenty of fresh, succulent seafood! Don’t miss the Gumbo Cook-Off on Sunday, where attendees can sample, savor and vote for the best bowl.
September 13-18, 2016, Kentucky Bourbon Festival, Bardstown, KY, www.KYBourbonFestival.com
The Kentucky Bourbon Festival encompasses six full days of smooth Bourbon, delicious food and great entertainment—all with a healthy dose of Southern hospitality. Historic Bardstown, Kentucky, the Bourbon Capital of the World, is the home of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. Dedicated to the history, art and passion of the legendary spirit, this will be the twenty-fifth year for the festival. The first festival in 1992 had only one event. In 25 years it has grown to over 40 events! Enjoy a balloon glow, World Championship Barrel Relay and The Great Kentucky Bourbon Tasting and Gala. Come see and taste why this festival attracts guests from every corner of the world.
September 16-18, 2016, 35th Annual Arts in the Heart of Augusta Festival, Augusta, GA, www.ArtsInTheHeartOfAugusta.com
Arts in the Heart of Augusta is two-and-a-half days of beautiful visual arts, crowd-pleasing performances and scrumptious food. Taking place in the heart of downtown Augusta, this well-loved Festival features Augusta’s ethnic community, providing 25 kinds of authentic international foods. The festival also includes a juried Fine Arts and Fine Crafts Market with over 125 artisans and five stages of non-stop entertainment. Additionally, there is a free, hands-on Family Area and Young Artist Market for artists under 18. With a Festival that looks, sounds and tastes this good, it’s no wonder why Arts in the Heart has earned national recognition from Top Events USA.
September 16-18, 2016, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, Bristol, VA/TN, www.BristolRhythm.com
Located in Historic Downtown Bristol, VA/TN, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion’s three-day music festival spotlights over 100 acts on 20 different stages. Celebrating Bristol’s unique history as the Birthplace of County Music, the place where the legendary 1927 Bristol Sessions were recorded, this event earned a spot in the American Bus Association’s Top 100 events, among multiple other accolades. New this year, check out the Social Saloon. This re-charge station is where folks can kick back and relax as they charge their mobile devices, while also monitoring the festival’s social media feeds via big screen TV’s.
September 17-18, 2016, Ocmulgee Indian Celebration, Macon, GA, www.nps.gov/ocmu
Celebrate the cultures of the Southeastern Native Americans including the Muscogee who once called Ocmulgee home. This fantastic event is for all ages, drawing thousands of visitors each year for its food, music, dance, storytelling, crafts, demonstrations by Native Americans and exhibits about the first cultural community of Macon. It is an excellent chance to rediscover the grounds, artifacts and nature within the 702-acre National Monument. The Visitor Center features over 2,000 artifacts will be open to the public. This event is celebrating its 25th year!
September 17-18, 2016, Suwanee Fest, Suwanee, GA, www.SuwaneeFest.com
Suwanee Fest is a two-day community celebration that is fun for the entire family. Suwanee Fest starts with a dazzling parade and then rolls into great entertainment, food, over 100 vendors and children’s activities. One of the high notes of Suwanee Fest is the musical talent that takes the stage at Town Center Park. This year, the festival will also offer an expanded Family Fun Zone with a host of free activities. Explore the many community art projects and even build your very own city at one of the exhibits!
September 22-25, 2016, Benson Mule Days, Benson, NC, www.BensonMuleDays.com
The town of Benson, North Carolina celebrates Benson Mule Days the 4th Saturday of September each year. Mule Days, considered one of the largest festivals in North Carolina, celebrates the work of the farmer, farm workers, local merchants, local workers and the hard working mule. It marks a time of harvest and celebration for everyone who is part of the larger Benson community, which is just 30 minutes outside of Raleigh. The festival draws approximately 50,000 people to the charming community of 3,600 residents. Mule Days is full of family-fun activities for both young and old: rodeos, a mule pulling contest, arts and crafts, vendors, street dances, carnival rides, camping, parades, Bluegrass shows and more.
September 23-24, 2016, Ascension Hot Air Balloon Festival, Gonzales, LA, www.AscensionBallooning.com
Come watch beautiful colors fill the sky at the Ascension Hot Air Balloon Festival in Gonzales, Louisiana. This fun, family event is for all ages and takes flight from the lovely grounds of the Lamar Dixon Expo Center. In addition to the early morning hot air balloon flights, this festival is a child’s dreamland. Little ones can explore the children’s village complete with a petting zoo, face painting, arts & crafts and a magic show. There are also carnival rides, tethered balloon rides, a car show, and a BBQ competition. No festival is complete without great food and live music – which you will find plenty of at this one-of-a-kind hot air balloon event.
September 24, 2016, A taste of Clarkesville, Clarkesville, GA, http://TasteOfClarkesville.com/
A taste of Clarkesville is the town’s premier food, wine and beer festival that showcases the diversity of the downtown food scene. This delectable event attracts food lovers from Northeast Georgia and beyond. Nestled in Clarkesville’s historic downtown district, the beautiful colors of autumn provide the perfect backdrop for this feast of the senses. Indulge in eclectic sips and dishes, while local musicians fill the fall air with sweet tunes. Take your treats for a stroll while browsing the dozens of downtown shops. A taste of Clarkesville simmers with true small-town charm and hospitality and is a fit for all palates!
September 30-October 30, 2016, Ruby Falls’ Haunted Cavern, Chattanooga, TN, www.HauntedCavern.com
Nightmares return to Lookout Mountain for the 13th year as Ruby Falls hosts the annual Haunted Cavern. This intense event takes place both above and below ground and is considered one of the area’s best haunted attractions—even earning a national nod as #4 on Buzzfeed’s National Haunt List. 2015 was Haunted Cavern’s highest attendance year and with a new theme this year, it will be even more terrifying for those who dare to enter!