Festivals Spice Southern Itineraries

Activities, Online Exclusives

People in the South know how to have a good time. They celebrate their food, music and heritage at festivals year-round. Here is just a sampling of special events—some mainstream, others a bit quirky—that might work into a group itinerary:

Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette celebrates the state’s French, African, Caribbean and Hispanic cultural influences. From April 25-29 groups can enjoy culinary treats, musical performances, arts and crafts booths, and cooking demonstrations. (festivalinternational.com)

Held in downtown Tunica, Miss., the Rivergate Music Festival highlights Southern musical genres. At the 20th anniversary event this year (April 20-21), groups can attend a celebrity karaoke concert, a barbecue competition and a car show while enjoying bluegrass, gospel and other music. (tunicatravel.com)


Riverfest in Little Rock is one of the largest arts and food festivals in Arkansas. Taking place during Memorial Day weekend, the festival includes a 5k run and walk, food vendors, musical acts, and artists and merchants displaying arts, crafts and jewelry. (riverfestarkansas.com)

Owensboro, Kentucky’s International Bar-B-Q Festival (May 11-12) celebrates country barbecue by hosting local teams who grill to win the Governor’s Cup. Besides watching the competition, groups can enjoy carnival rides and pie- and mutton-eating contests. (bbqfest.com)

Taking place in early July, the W.C. Handy Music Festival showcases musical entertainment that honors the heritage of Florence, Ala. and hometown blues composer W.C. Handy. Festivities include parades, concerts, exhibits, theater, athletic events, and performances by jazz and blues performers. (wchandymusicfestival.org)

Nashville’s Tomato Art Festival is a tomato-themed event celebrating fruits, vegetables and much more. On Aug. 11 groups will find tomato art, a tomato haiku competition, lemonade and food stands, the Giant Ice Cream Sundae Extravaganza, a parade, musical performances, and people dressed in fruit and vegetable attire. (tomatoartfest.com)

The Covington Cork and Pork Festival features barbecue competitions in downtown Covington, Va. On June 29-30 groups will encounter live music, street entertainment, wine tasting and arts/crafts vendors. (covingtoncorkandpork.com)

The North Carolina Peach Festival takes place every third Saturday in July in Candor. The peach-themed festival includes a parade, live musical entertainment, and a peach cooking contest. Groups can taste a variety of peach dishes and visit arts and crafts booths. (townofcandornc.com)

West Virginia State Fair

The Greek Festival in Greenville, S.C. commemorates Greek culture through entertainment, food and arts. From May 2-5 groups can enjoy live Greek music, folk dancers in traditional Greek attire, and Greek food favorites such as lamb, salad and pistachio. Tour St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral and visit booths filled with arts and crafts. (stgeorgegreenville.org)

The Sweet Auburn Spring Festival in Atlanta celebrates the historical contributions from the civil rights movement. The festival takes place on Auburn Avenue, a street well-known for African-American businesses, and seeks to preserve the culture of the social and political change that took place. Groups will find local businesses, a health and fitness fair, sports challenges, arts and crafts, games and food. (sweetauburn.com)

The State Fair of West Virginia (Aug. 10-18 in Fairlea) features carnival rides, a horse track, exhibition buildings and musical performances by famous artists. (statefairofwv.com)

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