March 24, 2010 12:00

North Carolina Spring and Summer Music Festival Guide


It happens every year... a long stretch of weekends that begins slowly in the early spring, crescendoes at the height of summer and continues even as autumnal fire sets into the landscape.

Its festival season in the Old North State, and if you like to drink beer and listen to music in the Carolina sunshine, then this is your favorite time of year.

Surely there are hundreds of festivals that happen every year, but for our purposes weve whittled it down to the ones that fall in spring and summer, that are predominantly music festivals (with a few local exceptions) and that take place in North Carolina (again, with a few exceptions that simply cannot be overlooked — FloydFest, were talking to you).

And as with everythign else these days, the spring and summer festival landscape is changing. This year more than a dozen annual shindigs folded up their tents due to shortages of funds, lackluster organization, poor attendance and scheduling conflicts.

But still weve assembled here more than 50 great festivals, ranging from tributes to one of our favorite fish (the NC Herring Festival, beginning April 2 in Jamesville) to the badass edge of rock, country and punk (Winston-Salems Heavy Rebel Weekender, straddling the Fourth of July like it was an Indian motorcycle) to the scores of bluegrass and Americana gatherings that pop up every weekend all across the state.

So if you;re planning to hit the festival circuit this year, start your planning right here, right now.

And happy festival season.

The gig: NC Herring Festival
The site:
The place: Jamesville
The buzz: Something fishy on Easter weekend
One(s) to watch: Friday night headliner Craig Woolard Band
Book it: April 2-4
How much: FREE (herring costs extra)

The gig: Darin & Brooke Aldridge Bluegrass Festival
The site: None
The place: Cherryville
The buzz: A nice little free festival, with camping
One(s) to watch: Lots of indigenous music including JD
Crowe & the New Youth, Unspoken Tradition and New
Plowed Ground
Book it: April 9
How much: FREE

The gig: NC Gold Festival
The site:
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: April 9-10
How much: FREE

The gig: Asheville Earth Day
The place: Martin Luther King Park, Asheville
The site:
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
One(s) to watch: Acoustic Syndicate and the Afromotive,
plus the New Mastersounds from Leeds, England who
reportedly channel the Meters.
Book it: April 17
How much: FREE ($25 VIP)

The gig: Spring Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival
The place: Silk Hope
The site:
The buzz: “A family-friendly festival of music, dance, art,
and education” over four days in the country.
One(s) to watch: More than 50 bands, but be on the lookout

for Bela Fleck, David Gans, Des Ark, Donna the Buffalo,
Hammer No More the Fingers, Hobex, Holy Ghost Tent
Revival, Midtown Dickens, Possum Jenkins, Rosie Ledet
and Rusted Root.
Book it: April 22-25
How much: $26-$100

The gig: Shine to Wine Festival
The place: Downtown north Wilkesboro
The site:
The buzz: Wine, food and song, and the 3rd annual Culinary
Chefs Challenge
One(s) to watch: Hope you like the SHU band
Book it: April 24
How much: FREE, wine tasting $15

The gig: World Beer Festival
The place: Moore Square, downtown Raleigh
The site:
The buzz: More than 250 beers from around the world gathered
in one great place, from All About Beer magazine
One(s) to watch: Crucial Fiya, Guta, Hot Politics, Stone Age
Romeos, plus Edgecase and Brooks Wood in the VIP Tent
Book it: April 24
How much: $40 morning session, advance; $50 day of
event; $75 evening session, $85 day of event, VIP sold out


The gig: Merlefest
The site:
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: This year is a killer, with Taj
Mahal, Little Feat, Elvis Costello, Steve Martin
with the Steep Canyon Rangers, the Lee Boys
and the Avett Brothers.
Book it: April 29-May 2
How much: $40-$225

The gig: BBQ Festival on the Neuse
The place: Kinston
The site:
The buzz: Fireworks, golf tournament, street
dance, pigs in costumes and the Great Neuse
River Duck Race. Formerly known as simple
the Festival on the Neuse, this year they’ve
added barbecue!
One(s) to watch: The Donald Underwood
Thompson Blues Band
Book it: April 29-May 2
How much: FREE

The gig: French Broad River Festival
The site:
The place: Hot Springs
The buzz: Named for the river, not some
French broad
One(s) to watch: James McMurtry & the
Heartless Bastards, Snake Oil Medicine Show,
Mad Tea Party, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge
and lots more on two stages
Book it: April 30-May 2
How much: $75

The gig: Daniel Boone Family Festival
The site:
The place: 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
One(s) to watch: Anyone in a coonskin cap
Book it: May 1
How much: FREE

The gig: Ham & Yam Festival
The site:
The place: Smithfield
The buzz: A tribute to the two of the state’s
biggest agricultural products, featuring a Miss
Ham & Yam Pageant
One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA
Book it: May 1-2
How much: FREE

The gig: Lake Eden Arts Festival
The site:
The place: Camp Rockmont, Black Mountain
The buzz: Some trivia: Now in its 30 th year, this
festival was the subject of the first article Editor
Brian Clarey sold in North Carolina.
One(s) to watch: Tons, including Blind Boys of
Alabama, Donna the Buffalo, the Duhks, Ben
Sollee, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Charmaine
Neville and lots of worldbeat stuff
Book it: May 6-9
How much: $29-$94 day pass, $129-$169

The gig: Spring Folly
The site:
The place: Kernersville
The buzz: Water wars, NASCAR simulator,
petting zoo, antique cars and Korner’s Folly

One(s) to watch: “Kernersville Idol” talent
Book it: May 7-9
How much: FREE

The gig: Beaufort Music Festival
The site:
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: Bands TBA
Book it: May 7-8
How much: FREE

The gig: Mayfest
The site:
The place: Pilot Mountain
The buzz: Annual Mothers Day weekend festival.
One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA
Book it: May 8-9
How much: FREE

The gig: Bluegrass in Wilkes
The site:
The place: Forest Edge Amphitheater;
The buzz: Smokey the Bear will be there
One(s)to watch: TBA, but sure to include plenty
of the high, lonesome stuff
Book it: May 8
How much: $10 advance, $15 day of event

The gig: Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet Newton
The site:
The place
: Downtown Newton
The buzz: Word is Dale himself may show
One(s) to watch: A few local and high school
bands, with headliners Night Moves, “good
rock and beach music” and Kayne Kreek, “traditional

Book it: May 15
How much: FREE

The gig: Englehard Seafood festival
The site:
The place Englehard:
The buzz: Hold out for the Miss Seafood
One(s) to watch: Headliner Spare Change
Book it: May 15
How much: FREE

How much: FREE

The gig: Artsplosure
The site:
The place: Moore Square; downtown Raleigh,
The buzz: Now with two days of fun!
One(s) to watch: Great lineup including Karl
Denson’s Tiny Universe, the Iguanas, Tinsley
Ellis and our old friend Mel Melton & the
Wicked Mojos
Book it: May 15-16
How much: FREE

The gig: Smilefest
The site:
The place: Jomeokee Campground, Pinnacle
The buzz: A festival begun in the aftermath
of the death of Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry
Garcia, back after a short hiatus
One(s) to watch: Headliner Michael Franti &
Spearhead may be the biggest name so far, but
more acts will be released at the website soon
Book it: May 21-23
How much: $105

The gig: Salut! The North Carolina Wine
The site:
The place: Downtown Winston-Salem
The buzz: Just like the poster says, a celebration
of Tarheel wines out in the hot sun.

One(s) to watch: Absolute ’80s plays the afterparty
at Foothills Brewing
Book it: May 22
How much: $20 advance, $25 day of

The gig: Li’l John’s Mountain Music Festival
The site:
The place: Cane Creek Campground, Snow
The buzz: “Great family-style bluegrass festival
with years of tradition.”
One(s) to watch: Sixteen bands, including
Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, fronted by a
blonde hottie in the Tanya Tucker tradition
Book it: May 27-29
How much: $25-$30 a day, $75 three-day pass

The gig: Heritage Festival Weekend
The site: none
The place: Riverfront City Park; Bryson City,
The buzz: A log-sawing contest!
One(s) to watch: Some really great homegrown
gospel mixed with Highland pipe and drums
Book it: May 28-29
How much: FREE

The gig: NC Potato Festival
The site:
The place: Elizabeth City
The buzz: “The North Carolina Potato Festival
is a family festival celebrating one of Northeast

The gig: NC Wine Festival
North Carolina’s largest crops.”
The site:
One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA, but there’s sure
The place: Tanglewood Park, Winston-Salem
to be plenty of French fries
The buzz: A wine buzz, of course!

Book it: May 15
One(s) to watch: Chairmen of the Board, the

Allison King Band and the Plaids
Book it: May 29
How much: $20 advance, $25 at the gate

The gig: Fiddler’s Grove Festival
The site:
The place: Fiddler’s Grove Campground;
Union Grove
The buzz: “The oldest continuous ole time fiddler’s
competition in North America”
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 28-30
How much: $35 adults, $15 children; camping


The gig: Party on the Plank
The site:
The place: High Point
The buzz: “Each week Party on the Plank will
feature a Center Stage with two smokin’ local
bands from different genres, an Art Gallery
with numerous local artists, a Food Court
with multiple restaurants, a Local Market with
tons of local retailers, a Beverage Center with
breweries, wineries and sodas, an interactive
City Vision Center to share ideas and hear the
latest about High Point revitalization and a
Kid’s Activity Center run by local churches.”
One(s) to watch: Emcee Brian Clarey, editor
of YES! Weekly, on June 3
Book it: Every Thursday in June and July
How much: FREE

The gig: Groverfest 2010
The place: Millstone Farm; Davidson
The site:
The buzz: It’s all about the music.
One(s) to watch: Greensboro band the
Mantras, who thrive in a festival atmosphere
Book it: June 4-6
How much: $35 pre-sale, $45 after April 15

The gig: Ocrafolk Music and storytelling
The site:
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 and
storytelling. Book it: June 4-6
How much: FREE

The gig: Galax Leaf & String Festival
The site:
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
Book it: June 11-12
How much: FREE, some ticketed events

The gig: Washington Summer Festival
The site:
The place: Washington
The buzz: Ronald McDonald will be there
One(s) to watch: Just one act, yet to be named
Book it: June 11-12
How much: FREE

The gig: Charlie Poole Music Festival
The site:
The place: Eden Fairgrounds, Eden
The buzz: Three days of pickin’, grinnin’ and
fiddlin’ in honor of the legacy of mill worker
and banjoist Charlie Poole
One(s) to watch: TBA, but plenty of competitions
and $5,000 in prizes
Book it: June 11-13
How much: $10-$20

The gig: Twin City RibFest
The site:
The place: Dixie Classic Fairgrounds;
The buzz: Four days and nights of music and
meat off the bone for this award-winning festival,
now in its sixth year
One(s) to watch: Mixed-bag lineup of country,
swamp funk, jazz and rock, personified neatly
by headliner Cyril Neville.
Book it: June 10-13
How much: $7, kids free

The gig: The Magnolia Baroque Festival
The site:
The place: Various venues; Winston-Salem
The buzz: “[V]irtuosic performances of
Baroque orchestral, solo, chamber music
and dance celebrating the theme, Triumph of
One(s) to watch: Saturday night’s Virtuosic
Bach, featuring an all-star lineup of festival
performers taking on Johann Sebastian’s
“most thrilling and profound music”
Book it: June 16-20
How much: $25/day, $20 seniors, $10 students

The gig: North Carolina State Bluegrass Fest
The site:
The place: Happy Holiday Campground;
The buzz: Wall-to-wall bluegrass in a state
renowned for the form
One(s) to watch: TBA, but last year saw

Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, Doyle Lawson &
Quicksilver and one 90-minute set by Ralph
Book it: June 17-19
How much: $30/day advance, $35 after June 9;
30day passes are $75/$85

The gig: Kernersville summerfest
The site:
The place: Kernersville Elementary School;
512 W. Mountain St.
The buzz: A good old-fashioned street fair with
pony rides, classic cars, a petting zoo and fireworks.
One(s) to watch: The Fantastic Shakers, Craig
Woolard Band and the Part-Time Party Time
Book it: June 17-19
How much: FREE (donations accepted)


The gig: Eastern Music Festival
The site:
The place: Various Triad locations
The buzz: A huge lineup of classical musicians,
conductors, small groups and orchestras along
with a Fringe series that’s a little more hip
One(s) to watch: We love the EMF Fringe
series, which brings a different vibe to the
event, but most acts are TBA
Book it: June 26-July 31
How much: $9-$49, but lots of deals available
at the website

The gig: Annual Southeast Old Threshers’
The site:
The place: FarmPark, Denton
The buzz: “The greatest steam, gas and antique
farm machinery show in the Southeast.”
One(s) to watch: Plenty to see for fans of
acoustic goodness
Book it: June 30-July 4
How much: $13 ($6 kids)

The gig: Red, White and Bluegrass Festival
The site:
The place: Catawba Meadows Park;
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: Lots to see, including Sweet
Potato Pie, the Grascals, the Del McCoury
Band, Cherryholmes and a bluegrass camp for
Book it: July 1-4
How much: $15/day, $40 weekend pass

The gig: Fun Fourth Festival
The site:
The place: Downtown Greensboro
The buzz: Greensboro’s 25th annual Fourth of
July celebration
One(s) to watch: A big, mostly free musical
weekend with the Extraordinaires and
Nantucket Friday night, and the rest TBA.
Book it: June 26-July 4
How much: FREE ($10 block party)

The gig: Heavy Rebel Weekender
The site:
The place: The Millennium Center, Winston-
The buzz: Hard to pigeonhole this one, just
know it’s about rock, country, punk and everything
in between, plus burlesque, cars, PBR and
mud wrestling.
One(s) to watch: “Dexter Romweber is a god.”
Book it: July 2-4
How much: $25 (one day) $70 (weekend)

The gig: Christmas in July Festival
The site:
The place: West Jefferson
The buzz: Activities include a Civil War reenactment
and a square dance
One(s) to watch: Eleven acts, with the headliner
TBA, but we’re leaning toward Jeff Little,
AKA the Pianoman
Book it: July 3
How much: FREE

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: High Country Bluegrass Festival
The site:
The place: Boone
The buzz: Bluegrass in the setting where it’s

meant to be heard: outdoors in the mountain
One(s) to watch: Much of the lineup TBA, but
headliner John Cowan is a former sideman to
Bela Fleck and Sam Bush
Book it: July 16-17
How much: $15-$35

The gig: Cape Fear Blues Festival
The site:
The place: Wilmington
The buzz: Blues on the beach courtesy of the
Cape Fear Blues Society
One(s) to watch: This one, now in its 15 th year,
is still in the planning stages, but last year’s
featured 10 national and local acts, plus a guitar
Book it: July 23-25
How much: $TBA

The gig: FloydFest 6
The site:
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: Possibly the best lineup of
the summer, with dozens of bands including
Levon Helm and his band, JJ Grey & Mofro,
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, local heroes the
Mantras and on the undercard, Cornmeal and
the Pimps of Joytime
Book it: July 22-25
How much: $35-$45/day, $135-$145/four-day

The gig: BeleChere
The Site:
The place: Downtown Asheville
The buzz: “Bele chere means ‘beautiful living.’”
One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA, but this one generally
has a lot of hot action.

Book it: July 23-25

How much: FREE


The gig: Jamestown Swing
The site:
The place: Jamestown
The buzz: A big street party begun by our
friend Ogi Overman scheduled to coincide with
the Wyndham Championship
One(s) to watch: Beach music. Nothing but
beach music.
Book it: Aug. 14
How much: $TBA

The gig: Sneads Ferry Shrimp Festival
The site:
The place: Sneads Ferry
The buzz: A festival with its own song, the
shrimp festival features a shrimp heading/peeling
contest, a parade, a Shrimp Queen pageant,
fireworks and the Shrimp Ball; also has its own
song (mp3 on the website)
One(s) to watch: The lineup still in the early
planning stages, with no announced acts as of
Book it: Aug. 14-15
How much: $TBA

The gig: Winterville Watermelon Festival
The site:
The place: Winterville
The buzz: the 22 nd annual festival dedicated to
that most succulent of fruits, also a “womanless
beauty contest”
One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA, but last year
they scored Travis Tritt
Book it: Aug. 26-28
How much: FREE


The gig: Blues, Brews & BBQ
The site: Google says it may harm my computer
The place: Charlotte
The buzz: Three very important B-words
crammed into one weekend
One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA
Book it: Sept. 10-11
How much: $TBA

The gig: Happy Valley Old-time Fiddlers’
The site:
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. 3-5
How much: $5, $10 camping

The gig: Rock the Block
The site:
The place: Downtown Winston-Salem
The buzz: Big free street fest to celebrate the
end of summer.
One(s) to watch: Lineup TBA
Book it: Dates TBA, but usually in mid-September
How much: FREE

The gig: Festival in the Park
The site:
The place: Freedom Park, Charlotte
The buzz: In its 45 th 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. Big
music doings on Saturday night, including
Scott’s Garage, Cool King Chris and Chapel
Book it: Sept. 23-26
How much: FREE

The gig: Carrboro Music Festival
The site:
The place: Carrboro
The buzz: In its 12th year, the daylong festival
takes over the city with shows at such disparate
venues as bars, cafs, dance studios, garden
stores and markets, as well as the venerable
Cats Cradle.
One(s) to watch: Still booking, but last year’s
event saw well over a hundred acts
Book it: Sept. 26

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