The story below is an excerpt from our March/April 2017 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, log in to read our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app. Thank you!
Prepare to feast on a platter of parties in 2017: Our annual festival guide points the way to great gatherings—from the Virginias and Carolinas to Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky. From food and beer to wine, music, arts and adventure, fun awaits in the mountains of seven states.
Sweeten your spring with some syrup. Start at Highland County, Virginia, where the Highland Maple Festival on March 11-12 and March 18-19 (highlandcounty.org) comes served with arts and crafts, history tours and, of course, plenty of pancakes. In Pickens, West Virginia, you’ll find another Maple Syrup Festival on March 18 with a quilt show and more crafts (pickenswv.com). And, just above the North Carolina line, attend the Whitetop Mountain Maple Festival on March 25-26 along U.S. Highway 58 (mtrogersvfd-rs.com) to tour the maple orchard, hear bluegrass music and savor some sausage and syrup in southwest Virginia.
You can also rock in the March madness of Rock City’s Shamrock City, a celebration with all things turned green. That includes the waterfall of the iconic attraction at Lookout Mountain, Georgia. Taste Irish food and green beer on March 11-12 and March 18-19 (seerockcity.com).
Dollywood’s Festival of Nations in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, kicks off on March 18 and runs for a month to showcase music, dance, food and art of nations from around the globe (dollywood.com). Then stay in town and cuddle up at A Mountain Quiltfest in Pigeon Forge on March 21-25 with quilting classes and seminars (mypigeonforge.com).
Before March slips out like a lamb, dare to don your dancing shoes at the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention, a weekend party on March 31-April 1 with square dancing, folk songs, band contests and workshops on the campus of Surry Community College (surryoldtime.com) in Dobson, North Carolina.
Hungry? Well, come to West Virginia on April 8, and look for the Lewisburg Chocolate Festival as dozens of independent chocolatiers—and almost every store, business and restaurant—offer a tasty chocolate treat in exchange for a $1 ticket. Here, you can enjoy live music, face-painting, a 10K Chocolate Chase, bake-off and professional chef demonstrations (lewisburgchocolatefestival.com). “That festival brings in thousands of people,” says Amy Mills, owner of the newly opened Amy’s Cakes & Cones in Lewisburg.
Still hungry? Well, blast over to Blacksburg, Virginia, for another Chocolate Festival on April 15 (rotarychocolate.weebly.com). Then dip into North Carolina to Savor Blowing Rock (savorblowingrock.com) during a four-day festival at Blowing Rock, celebrating food and drink with a Grand Tasting, seminars and entertainment on April 20-23.
The resilient town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, remains a lively getaway: Come learn crafty ways at the Hands On Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Weekend, held April 7-9. Or you can celebrate the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains on April 11-15 at Gatlinburg’s 67th Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage (gatlinburg.com). Nearby, on the “peaceful side” of the Smokies, look for Smoky Mountain Fiber Arts Festival (townsend artisanguild.net) in Townsend, Tennessee, running April 21-23 the GSM Heritage Center – with fiber arts and live animals.
Townsend, too, is trying something new this year on April 15 with the Townsend Founder’s Day, held at the Townsend Visitor Center (865-448-6134). Also on April 15: The Blue Ribbon Biscuit & Bluegrass Festival is being held at the community center of Sautee Nacoochee, Georgia (snca.org), with music by Elliott Sperin, Good in the Kitchen and The Freight Hoppers.
Next, on April 16, the Easter Rabbit is set to make his annual appearance at the Biltmore on Easter Sunday in Asheville, North Carolina (biltmore.com).
Dahlonega’s Bear on the Square Festival in Georgia features musicians and crafters on April 21-23. The party’s funny name recalls when a baby bear climbed a tree in town and had to be rescued. Now, it starts with Friday’s street-jam followed by two full days of activities on Saturday and Sunday (bearonthesquare.org).
Still in Georgia, take the highway to Helen for the Spring Bierfest at the Festhalle of Helen, Georgia, starting at noon on April 22 with music, dancing, food and beverages (helenchamber.com).
In Hendersonville, North Carolina, look for the Apple Country Cider Jam on April 22, featuring cider producers from throughout the Tarheel State. Or go to nearby Sylva for Greening Up the Mountains (greeningupthemountains.com) on April 22.
Now plow into Pikeville, Kentucky, on April 20-22, to celebrate the mountain frontier at Hillbilly Days, which features three days of outrageous food, fun and frolics (hillbillydays.com).
On April 27-30, it’s the 30th anniversary edition of music festival MerleFest at Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina (merlefest.org) with performers including Claire Lynch, Banknotes, Andy May, Roy Book Binder, Chatham County Line, Jerry Douglas, Del McCoury Band, Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, Zac Brown Band and David Holt (see his Guest column on page 66 of this issue).