The North Georgia State Fair in Marietta, which starts Sept. 21, is the largest metro Atlanta fair with 40 rides, culinary delights, flower shows, two petting zoos, exotic animals, a sea lion splash show, David Smith “The Human Cannonball” and a beauty pageant.
One big change at this year’s 11-day fair is the absence of signature concerts. “We’d do maybe five concerts, usually country acts, and then a Christian concert. We’d get acts either on their way up or on their way down. We’ve had Kenny Chesney, Little Big Town. But after COVID, the pricing went way up. Frankly, the concerts weren’t as popular as they once were,” said Tod Miller, fair manager.
Instead, the 350,000 expected attendees can experience a demolition derby, monster trucks, the American BullRiders Tour and the Piccolo Zoppe Boutique Circus.
“It’s tradition,” Miller said. “About half the people don’t come for the rides. They want the food and the corn dog that they get every year. They remember coming here as a kid or meeting their husband.”
The Gwinnett County Fair in Lawrenceville is another 11-day event that likewise offers a little bit of everything for its 120,000 expected attendees, including livestock shows, “Georgia Grown” booths, 56 rides and favorites such as the King BMX Stunt Show, Oscar the Robot and Pirates of the Colombian Caribbean.
“It’s a great family atmosphere, and that’s what we’re promoting,” said Todd Teasley, manager of the fair, which starts Sept. 14. “We want to keep it so parents can spend time with their kids and have a good time.”
Not far from the Gwinnett County Fair is the Sept. 30-Oct. 1 Duluth Festival, now in its 40th year.
“Every year families come back and even schedule reunions around it,” said Beth Hoffman, who is the fest’s volunteer co-chair, along with her husband, Herb Hoffman. “We have the largest parade in Gwinnett County and entertainment all weekend long. It supports the city, which has a thriving downtown. You can go get a turkey leg and enjoy an old-time styled event with a modern flair.”
Carse, co-founder of Atlanta-based King of Pops frozen dessert bars, which sponsored the King of Tots race, said he especially enjoys neighborhood festivals.
“Each neighborhood festival is different. The energy of a Chomp & Stomp is different from the Inman Park energy and the Dogwood Festival. They’re all amazing, but they can go from super bohemian to more buttoned up,” he said. “The great thing about neighborhood festivals is that they have local bands and there is a community feel about it. It gives you a reason to visit a neighborhood that you usually don’t have a good reason to visit and see what makes them special.”
Many of the festivals, such as the Fall Festival on Ponce, the Chastain Park Fall Arts Festival and the Old Fourth Ward Arts Festival, generally feature DJs, live music, local artists, kids zones, entertainers and food vendors. Others have a more specific focus, such as the Georgia Apple Festival in Ellijay that for the past 52 years has celebrated one of the area’s biggest crops and Chomp & Stop in Atlanta’s Cabbagetown neighborhood that features a chili cook-off, bluegrass, porch jams and the Cabbage Games.
Credit: Alysia Hargus/Alysia Hargus Phot
Credit: Alysia Hargus/Alysia Hargus Phot
The City of Smyrna Culture & Spirit Festival on Oct. 7 is bringing in national talent with performances by The Wallflowers, Goo Goo Dolls and 10,000 Maniacs, as well as local entertainment such as traditional African drummers, saxophonist Kimberlye McKinney, traditional Indian dances from the Kalaivani Dance Academy and fire performer Pyro Priestess.
The first fest in the fall lineup is the third annual Interfaith Festival, set for Sept. 10 at the Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur. Attendees can meet representatives of faith-based groups, meditate in the Contemplation Tent, join in a community service project and take in entertainment such as Atlanta’s Co-Ed Intercollegiate Competitive Bollywood Fusion Dance Team, Hindustani classical singing, hymn singing from the Sikh Scriptures and the Mamalehs, a Jewish women’s singing group.
“September is metro Atlanta’s festival season, and we are excited to present the festival that makes a difference,” said Rabbi Ellen Nemhauser, board chair of Interfaith Atlanta. “People from our diverse communities, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, gurdwaras and more will come together to celebrate the beauty of our city’s faith communities, give back to help those in need and learn from one another. This is a one-of-a kind event in Atlanta.”
For Carse and the thousands like him, festivals are all about the experience.
“One of my favorite memories was wandering around with my daughter and seeing Puddles the Clown sing,” he said. “She couldn’t take her eyes off him. You just allow yourself to enjoy it.”
Interfaith Festival. 2-5 p.m. Sept. 10. Free. 701 S. Columbia Drive, Decatur. 770-713-3020, interfaithatlanta.org.
Gwinnett County Fair. Sept. 14-24. 5-11 p.m. Monday-Friday. 11 a.m.-midnight Saturday. 1-10 p.m. Sunday. $10, 12-64 years. $5, 65+ and 6-11. Free, 5 and under. 2405 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville. 770-963-6522, gwinnettcountyfair.com.
Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. Dinners: 7-10 p.m. Sept. 20, 22, 23. 5:30-9 p.m. Sept. 21. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 24. Tasting tents: 7-10 p.m. Sept. 22. 4-8 p.m. Sept. 23. 1-5 p.m. Sept. 24. Dinners: $125- $275. Tasting tents: $125- $400. 665 North Ave. 305-529-9506, atlantafoodandwinefestival.com.
North Georgia State Fair. Sept. 21-Oct. 1. 4-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday. 4 p.m.-midnight Friday. 10 a.m.- midnight Saturday. 12:30-10 p.m. Sunday. $10. Jim R. Miller Park, 2245 Callaway Road, Marietta. 770-423-1330, northgeorgiastatefair.com.
Duluth Fall Festival. 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Sept. 30. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 1. Free. 3142 Hill St., Duluth. 855-385-8841, duluthfallfestival.org.
Fall Festival on Ponce. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 7. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 8. Free. 1451 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1222, festivalonponce.com.
City of Smyrna Culture & Spirit Festival. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Oct. 7. Free. 2800 King St., Smyrna. 770-434-6600, smyrnaga.gov.
Blairsville Sorghum Festival. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 14-15, 21-22. $5, 13 and up. 490 Meeks Park Road, Blairsville. 706-969-0300, blairsvillesorghumfestival.com.
Georgia Apple Festival. Oct. 14-15, 21-22. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays. $10, adults. Free, 12 and under. 1729 South Main St., Ellijay. 706-636-4500, georgiaapplefestival.org.
Old Fourth Ward Arts Festival. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 14. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 15. Free. 592 N. Angier Ave. 404-873-1222 oldfourthwardparkartsfestival.com.
Gold Rush Festival. 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Oct. 21-22. Free, but donations accepted. Public Square, Park and Main streets, Dahlonega. 800-231-5543, goldrushdaysfestival.com.
Chastain Park Fall Arts Festival. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 4. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 5. Free. 4469 Stella Drive. 404-873-1222, chastainparkartsfestival.com.
Chomp & Stomp. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Nov. 4. Free, but $10 chili spoon required for eating. 177 Estoria St. chompandstomp.com.