There`s something about North Carolina in the spring: the fresh air, the sunshine, the smell of grass and flowers. It make us want to get outside, drink beer and listen to music. There are hundreds of festivals in the Old North State, but everyone can agree that the best ones happen in the spring and summer.
We´ve put together a list of the best of them — more than 50 outdoor festivals within driving distance of the Triad, some of them homegrown right in our backyard.
North Carolina festivals celebrate everything from herring to sweet potatoes, can be held in downtown parking lots and out in the woods, attract familes and party people.
But our list is all about music — all of these festivals have the good, live stuff:
national touring bands, local heroes and some groups that seem to be thrown together just for the occasion.
Do youself a favor. Peruse the list. Mark your calendar. Find your tent and load it in the car. Festival season is here.
The gig: NC Herring Festival The site: ncherringfestival.com The place: Jamesville The buzz: Something fishy on Easter weekend One(s) to watch: As always, Friday night headliner Craig Woolard Band Book it: April 6-8 How much: FREE (herring costs extra)
The gig: Big Lick Bluegrass Festival The site: Facebook The place: Big Lick Festival Park, Oakboro The buzz: Traditional bluegrass festival at a “wide spot in the road between Charlotte and Albemarle.” Worth going just for the T-shirt.
One(s) to watch: The Rye Hollar Boys, Balsam Ridge, a Deeper Shade of Blue, Goldwing Express and the Lonesome River Band, among others.
Book it: April 12-14 How much: $5 Thursday, $25 Friday, $30 Saturday. Limited camping available.
The gig: Darin & Brooke Aldridge Bluegrass Festival The site: darinandbrookealdridge.com The place: Cherryville The buzz: “Great music, good food and nice people make the festival one of the best small music events in North Carolina.”
One(s) to watch: Lots of indigenous music including the Grascals, plus lots of Darin and Brooke Aldridge, the “Sweethearts of Bluegrass.”
Book it: April 13-14 How much: $20/day, $35 weekend
The gig: World Beer Festival The place: Moore Square, downtown Raleigh The site: www.allaboutbeer.com The buzz: More than 250 beers from around the world gathered in one great place, from All About Beer magazine One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA, usually local action.
Book it: April 12; 12 p.m. -4 p.m. and 6 p.m.-10 p.m.
How much: $40 per session in advance; $50 day of event; VIP sold out
The gig: ClydeFEST The site: www.chathamarts.org/programs/clydefest.html The place: Bynum Ballpark, Pittsboro The buzz: “[C]elebrating legendary folk artist Clyde Jones.”
One(s) to watch: TBA, but last year included Sandbox, the Northwood High School Jazz Band, Dan the Magic Man and Girls Rock North Carolina.
Book it: April 14 How much: $7 adults, $3 children
The gig: Spring Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival
The place: Silk Hope The site: www.shakorihills.org The buzz: “A family-friendly festival of music, dance, art, and education” over four days in the country.
One(s) to watch: More than 60 bands in four stages, with big names that include Leftover Salmon, Donna the Buffalo, Bombadil, BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, Jim Avett, Rubblebucket and the Red Clay Ramblers.
Book it: April 19-22 How much: $25-$45/day, $100 4-day pass, camping $10
The gig: Asheville Earth Day The place: Pack Square Park, downtown Asheville The site: avlearthday.org The buzz: “[P]eople of all ages and backgrounds of the Asheville community, gathering to educate and celebrate that every person can make a difference for environmental change.”
One(s) to watch: New Orleans Suspects, the Fritz, Mark Farina Mushroom Jazz, Underhill Rose and Floodwood, featuring members of moe.
Book it: April 21 How much: FREE (VIP available)
The gig: Merlefest The site: merlefest.org The place: Wilkesboro The buzz: The granddaddy of them all, Merlefest honors the legacy of Doc and Merle Watson featuring a few dozen bands, camping and art.
One(s) to watch: Lots of serious players including Sam Bush, Bela Fleck & the Flecktones original lineup, Vince Gill, the Greencards, Los Lobos, Allison Krauss & Union Station Feat. Jerry Douglas, Peter Rowan & the Free Mexican Air Force, Tedeschi Trucks Band, the Waybacks and the Steel Wheels.
Book it: April 26-29 How much: $35-$55 single day, $135-$250 multi-day.
The gig: NC Pickle Festival The site: www.ncpicklefest.org The place: Mt. Olive (of course) The buzz: It’s more than just pickles… but there’s gonna be a lot of pickles.
One(s) to watch: Band of Oz on Friday night
The gig: Party on the Plank The site: partyontheplank.com The place: Downtown High Point The buzz: “Now in its third year, Party on the Plank desires to continue promoting cultural renewal and a fun community gathering place in the heart of High Point.”
One(s) to watch: Six Stylez, the Fairlanes, Big Daddy Love and the Part-Time Party Time Band Book it: Every Friday April 27-May 18 How much: FREE
The gig: Piedmont Earth Day Fair The place: Dixie Classic Fairgrounds, Winston-Salem The site: www.peanc.org/earth-day-fair The buzz: "The Earth Day Fair is a Zero Waste Challenge Event. It is our goal to host a Fair for 10,000+ people and not send any waste to the landfill."
One(s) to watch: Five acts beginning at 10:30 a.m., including the Darnell Woodies and headliner Mac & Juice.
Book it: April 28 How much: FREE
The gig: BBQ Festival on the Neuse The place: Kinston The site: bbqfestivalontheneuse.com The buzz: Fireworks, golf tournament, street dance, pigs in costumes and the Great Neuse River Duck Race. Formerly known simply as the Festival on the Neuse, it is billed as the largest barbecue cook-off in the state.
One(s) to watch: The Mighty Saints of Soul and the Grass Cats Book it: May 2-5 How much: FREE
The gig: Spring Folly The site: www.kernersvillespringfolly.com The place: Kernersville The buzz: Water wars, petting zoo, reptile show, antique cars, Lexington barbecue, karate, a human hamster ball and Korner’s Folly
including the Chris Lane Band, Hip Pocket, Matt Stillwell, Rachel Farley, the Legacy and “Kernersville Idol” talent search.
Book it: May 4-6 How much: FREE
The gig: French Broad River Festival The site: frenchbroadriverfestival.com The place: Hot Springs The buzz: Named for the river, not some French broad One(s) to watch: Headliners Lukas Nelson & the Promise of the Real, with the Gourds, Sol Driven Train, Balsam Range, Eyes of the Elders, Kung Fu Dynamite and more.
Book it: May 4-6 How much: $70 early bird, $80 after April 20, limited to 2,500 tickets
The gig: Ham & Yam Festival The site: downtownsmithfield.com The place: Smithfield The buzz: A tribute to the two of the state’s biggest agricultural products, featuring the winner of the Miss Ham & Yam Pageant One(s) to watch: Headliner Molly freakin’ Hatchet.
Book it: May 4-5 How much: FREE
The gig: Shine to Wine Festival The place: Downtown North Wilkesboro The site: www.shinetowine.com The buzz: Wine, food and song. One(s) to watch: Freeport Jazz Book it: May 5 How much: FREE, wine tasting $20
The gig: Daniel Boone Family Festival The site: danielboonefamilyfestival.com The place: Junker’s Mill Outdoor Theatre, Mocksville The buzz: Seriously outdated website, with little or no information regarding music, food or anything else, really, but it seems like an homage to the great woodsman and fighting man Daniel Boone — or, at least, a great place to bust out your coonskin cap One(s) to watch: Your guess is as good as ours
Book it: May 5 How much: FREE
The gig: Lake Eden Arts Festival The site: theleaf.com The place: Camp Rockmont, Black Mountain The buzz: “[S]pontaneous and great music from all corners of the globe,” with fiddle, dance and poetry contests, dancing and a killer drum circle One(s) to watch: This is one of the big ones, with David Bromberg, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Corey Harris & the Rasta Blues Experience, Skinny Legs & All, Sean Kuti & Egypt 80 and headliner Taj Mahal, with dozens more.
Book it: May 10-13 How much: $37-$55 day pass, $99 weekend (no camping). $155-$179 weekend (w/camping)
The gig: Mayfest The site: townofpilotmountain.com/mayfest.htm The place: Pilot Mountain The buzz: Annual Mothers Day weekend festival. One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA Book it: May 11-13 How much: FREE
The gig: Beaufort Music Festival The site: beaufortmusicfestival.com The place: The historic Beaufort waterfront The buzz: An outdoor festival in one of the state’s most charming waterfront communities One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA, but last year included Chatham County Line and Justin Townes Earle.
Book it: May 11-12 How much: FREE
The gig: Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet Newton Mayfest The site: newtonmayfest.com The place: Downtown Newton The buzz: The car show is the hot ticket at this one, an extra $20.
One(s) to watch: “A wide variety of music.” Book it: May 12 How much: FREE
The gig: Carolina Blues Festival The site: www.piedmontblues.org The place: Festival Park, downtown Greensboro
Book it: April 27-28 How much: FREE One(s) to watch: Some bigger names this year, The buzz: One of our favorites, and not just because we’re sponsors One(s) to watch: Headliners Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King, local heroes Mel Melton & the Wicked Mojos and House of Dues. And if you’ve never seen Eric Gales, you probably should.
Book it: May 19 How much: $20 advance, $30 day of show
The gig: Englehard Seafood festival The site: Facebook The place Englehard The buzz: Hold out for the Miss Seafood Pageant One(s) to watch: Love Tribe Book it: May 19 How much: FREE
The gig: NC Potato Festival The site: ncpotatofestival.com The place: Elizabeth City The buzz: “The North Carolina Potato Festival is a family festival celebrating one of Northeast North Carolina’s largest crops.” With a potato-peeling contest and Little Miss Tater Tot pageant One(s) to watch: Shagging on the harbor Book it: May 19 How much: FREE
The gig: Artsplosure The site: www.artsplosure.org The place: Moore Square; downtown Raleigh, NC The buzz: The Raleigh Arts Festival One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA, but the festival has seen the likes of Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, the Iguanas, Tinsley Ellis and our old friend Mel Melton & the Wicked Mojos Book it: May 19-20 How much: FREE
The gig: Li’l John’s Mountain Music Festival The site: www.littlejohnsmountainmusic.com The place: Cane Creek Campground, Snow Camp The buzz: “Great family-style bluegrass festival with years of tradition.”
One(s) to watch: Fifteen bands, including Dudley & Vincent, the Grascals, JD Crowe & the New South, Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers, Ashlee Blankenship and Passin Thru.
Book it: May 24-26 How much: $25-$30 a day, $75 three-day pass
The gig: Fiddler’s Grove Festival The site: fiddlersgrove.com The place: Fiddler’s Grove Campground; Union Grove The buzz: “The oldest continuous ole time fiddler’s competition in North America” No booze, no drugs.
One(s) to watch: The certified Old Time Fiddlers, open to musicians over 55 who play only by ear and have had no formal training.
Book it: May 25-27 How much: $35 adults, $15 children; camping available
The gig: NC Wine Festival The site: ncwinefestival.com The place: Tanglewood Park, Winston-Salem The buzz: A wine buzz, of course!
One(s) to watch: Part-Time Party Time Band, the Plaids and Band of Oz.
Book it: May 26 How much: $20 advance, $30 at the gate
The gig: Groverfest 2010 The place: High Country Motorcycle Camp, Wilkes County The site: www.groverfest.com The buzz: It’s all about the music. One(s) to watch: Duk Tan, House of Fools, Pluto for Planet, Sponge Cake & the Fluff Ramblers and more, plus a second stage dubbed “The Electronik Circus.”
Book it: June 1-3 How much: $65
The gig: NC Gold Festival The site: ncgold.org The place: Tom Johnson Camping Center; Marion The buzz: Thar’s gold in them there hills! Or, at least, there used to be.
One(s) to watch: Music TBA, but expect to see some fiddlers Book it: June 1-2 How much: FREE
The gig: Ocrafolk Music and storytelling Festival The site: ocrafolkfestival.org The place: Ocracoke Island The buzz: “The festival is a life-enriching experience, full of joy and sharing… a communion of sorts, bringing together musicians, Ocracoke residents and tourists.”
One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA, but last year’s saw 28 bands worth of gospel, folk, bluegrass, Americana and rock, along with clogging, storytelling and… pirates?
Book it: June 1-3 How much: FREE
The gig: Texas Pete Twin City RibFest The site: Twincityribfest.com The place: Downtown Winston-Salem The buzz: Four days and nights of music and meat off the bone for this award-winning festival, now in its eighth year One(s) to watch: Karaoke sing-off on Thursday, the Heritage and TONEZ on Friday, Twin City Buskers on Saturday and Sunday headliner TBA.
Book it: June 7-10 How much: $7, kids free. No charge on Thursday.
The gig: Galax Leaf & String Festival The site: Galaxfestival.com The place: Downtown Galax, Va.
The buzz: Bluegrass and old-time mountain music on two downtown stages and a headliner at the historic Rex Theater One(s) to watch: “[A] full sampling of local music, luthiers, arts, crafts and regional and national authors on hand to meet and entertain you.”
Book it: June 8-9 How much: FREE, some ticketed events
The gig: Charlie Poole Music Festival The site: Charlie-poole.com The place: Governor Morehead Park, Eden The buzz: Two days of pickin’, grinnin’ and fiddlin’ in honor of the legacy of mill worker and banjoist Charlie Poole, now in its 17th year.
One(s) to watch: Kinney Rorrer’s New North Carolina Ramblers, the Dry Hill Draggers, Riley Baugus, the Orpheus Supertones and the UNCG Old Time Ensemble, plus plenty of competitions and $5,000 in prizes. Winners have from as far away as San Rafael, Calif. and Brooklyn, NY.
Book it: June 8-9 How much: $10-$20
The gig: Fun Fourth Festival The site: funfourthfestival.org The place: Downtown Greensboro The buzz: Greensboro’s 27th annual Fourth of July celebration, with a Freedom Run, block party, parade, street festival and fireworks, plus an attempt at the world high-five record, followed by a weekend performance of 1776, the Musical at the Carolina Theatre One(s) to watch: A big, mostly free musical weekend with Rubberband and Big Daddy Love Tuesday night, and the Greensboro Philharmonic on Wednesday night at the White Oak Amphitheater.
Book it: June 29-July 4 How much: FREE ($5 block party)
The gig: Eastern Music Festival The site: Easternmusicfestival.org
The place: Various Triad locations The buzz: A huge lineup of classical musicians, conductors, small groups, guest conductors and orchestras along with a Fringe series that’s a little more hip One(s) to watch: Acts booked include Vladimir Feltsman, Glenn Dicterow & the EMF Young Artists, Les Roettges, Cle Thompson, Alexander Toradze, Thomas Hong and more.
Book it: June 20-July 28 How much: $9-$49, but lots of deals available at the website
The gig: Annual Southeast Old Threshers’ Reunion The site: threshers.com The place: FarmPark, Denton The buzz: “The greatest steam, gas and antique farm machinery show in the Southeast.”
One(s) to watch: The Dosses, the Perrys, Rhonda Vncent, Ronnie McDowell and Mike Snider Book it: June 30-July 4 How much: $14 ($6 kids)
The gig: Red, White and Bluegrass Festival The site: www.redwhiteandbluegrassfestival.com The place: Catawba Meadows Park; Morganton The buzz: A festival born of a 15-minute fireworks show on the campus of Western Piedmont Community College in the 1980s. No booze.
One(s) to watch: Eight bands a day, including Steep Canyon Rangers, the US Navy Band, the Roys, Blue Highway, Skip Cherryholmes Quintet and Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, as well as a bluegrass camp for kids.
Book it: June 30-July 4 How much: $30/day, $85 four-day pass
The gig: Uncle Sam Jam The site: None The place: Oak Hollow Park, High Point The buzz: Annual Fourth of July throwdown in the Furniture City One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA Book it: July 4 How much: FREE
The gig: Heavy Rebel Weekender The site: Heavyrebel.net The place: The Millennium Center, Winston- Salem The buzz: Hard to pigeonhole this one, just know it’s about rock, country, punk and everything in between — 90 bands over three days on four stages — plus burlesque, cars, PBR, wet wifebeaters and mud wrestling.
One(s) to watch: Best. Band names. Ever.
Sasquatch & the Sickabillies, the F’n A-Holes, the Dielectrics, the Misery Jackals, Switchblade Syndicate, Brutally Frank, Dirty Dee & the Sweaty Meat… but we’d trade them all for Dexter Romweber & the New Romans on Saturday night.
Book it: July 6-8 How much: $35 (one day) $90 (weekend)
The gig: Christmas in July Festival The site: Christmasinjuly.info The place: West Jefferson
The buzz: Now in its 25th year, activities at this one include a Civil War reenactment and a square dance.
One(s) to watch: Ten acts, including gospel, country and bluegrass.
Book it: July 7 How much: FREE
The gig: FloydFest 7 The site: Floydfest.com The place: Floyd, Va. The buzz: “FloydFest is named after our onestoplight, two-block town, or rather the special essence of our town, which residents and visitors alike experience as a respite from the restless, hurried activity of our modern society, and the cookie-cutter look and feel of many, if not most, modern places.” It is not a Pink Floyd tribute festival.
One(s) to watch: This is insane. Alison Krauss & Union Station, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Jackson Browne, Drive-By Truckers, Matisyahu, Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers, Dawes, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Galactic with Corey Henry, Toubab Krewe, Sam Bush Band, Ozomatli, the Dead Kenny Gs, American Aquarium and many, many more.
Book it: July 26-29 How much: $60 (Sunday)-$150 (four day), with VIP available
The gig: BeleChere The Site: belecherefestival.com The place: Downtown Asheville The buzz: “Bele chere means ‘beautiful living.’” One(s) to watch: “Featured past performers include Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Old 97’s, Cracker, the Family Stone Project, Travis Tritt, the Wailers, Original P-Funk, Cowboy Mouth, Rusted Root, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Marty Stuart, Gin Blossoms, Galactic, Gov’t Mule and many others.”
Book it: July 27-29 How much: FREE
The gig: Cape Fear Blues Festival The site: capefearblues.org The place: Wilmington The buzz: Blues on the beach courtesy of the Cape Fear Blues Society, with a blues cruise, workshops, jams and a guitar giveaway One(s) to watch: This one, now in its 17th year, is still in the planning stages, but our favorite acts from last year were 10 Dollar Thrill, Studebaker Johon & the Hawks nd Spider Mike Bochey Book it: July 27-29 How much: $TBA
The gig: Winterville Watermelon Festival The site: Watermelonfest.com The place: Winterville The buzz: the 27th annual festival dedicated to that most succulent of fruits, also a “womanless beauty contest” One(s) to watch: TBA, but last year they had the Four Tops.
Book it: Aug. 22-25 How much: FREE
The gig: John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival The site: www.coltrane jazzfest.com
The place: Oak Hollow Festival Park, High Point The buzz: “[T]o preserve and celebrate the life and music of John Coltrane and to enrich the lives of others through the introduction of jazz and other musical genres.”
One(s) to watch: Ravi Coltrane, son of John, ably carried the torch last year.
Book it: Sept. 1 How much: $TBA
The gig: Happy Valley Old-time Fiddlers’ Convention The site: happyvalleyfiddlers.com The place: Jones Farm; Lenoir The buzz: Lenoir is the place where Tom Dooley actually hung his head and cried in 1867 after being executed for murdering his neighbor, Laura Foster, who grew up on the festival site One(s) to watch: Check out the competitions, especially the ones for autoharp, Appalachian dulcimer and mountain dance Book it: Sept. 2-4 How much: $5, $10 camping
The gig: Jomeokee Music & Arts Festival The site: www.jomeokeefest.com The place: Jomeokee Campground, Pinnacle The buzz: “The stunning view of Pilot Mountain creates a picturesque background for two side-byside stages showcasing alternating sets.”
One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA, but it will be curated by Del McCoury, so… Book it: Sept. 14-16 How much: $105, VIP $275
The gig: Benson Mule Days The site: www.bensonmuledays.com The place: Benson Singing Grove The buzz: “The weekend is packed with rodeos, a mule pulling contest, arts and crafts, vendors, street dances, carnival rides, camping, parades, bluegrass shows and more.”
One(s) to watch: Tim Hair & the AKM Band and Sweet Potato Pie Book it: Sept. 20-23 How much: FREE
The gig: Festival in the Park The site: Festivalinthepark.org The place: Freedom Park, Charlotte The buzz: In its 47th year, the festival has been ranked among the top 200 in the United States by Sunshine Artists magazine One(s) to watch: Special stages for kids, clowns, magicians and folk musicians. More than a dozen music acts, including the Lizzy Ross Band, Donna Duncan, Crisis, the Brubakers and Gael Warning.
Book it: Sept. 21-23 How much: FREE
The gig: Rock the Block The site: www.rocktheblockws.com The place: Downtown Winston-Salem The buzz: Big free street fest to celebrate the end of summer.
One(s) to watch: Live music on six stages, lineup TBA
Book it: Sept. 22 How much: FREE
The gig: Carrboro Music Festival The site: Carrboromusicfestival.com The place: Carrboro The buzz: In its 14th year, the daylong festival takes over the city with shows at such disparate venues as bars, cafés, dance studios, garden stores and markets, as well as the venerable Cat’s Cradle.
One(s) to watch: Still booking, but last year’s event saw about 180 local acts: jazz, rock, gospel, country, folk, Americana and just about everything else you can think of.
Book it: Sept. 30 How much: FREE (donations accepted)