Carolinas awash with spring festivals

Now that we’re finally shaking off the cold of winter, it’s time to start thinking about spring travel plans. Here’s a chance to enjoy more than just a pleasant travel excursion. These festivals in nearby North and South Carolina are guaranteed to provide a laugh or two and an opportunity to experience something out of the ordinary.

Pig in the Park, April 12-13, Goldsboro, N.C.

It’s all about regional Carolina barbecue, but this festival is so much more. Now in its fifth year, “Pig in the Park” takes place in Old Waynesborough Park (the site of the former town of Waynesborough, which was the county seat from 1787 to 1847). What remains of Waynesborough today has been incorporated into Goldsboro, and includes several historic buildings that date back as early as the 1860s.P

The fun kicks off Friday evening in downtown Goldsboro with dance parties and music presentations beginning at 8 p.m. and continuing until midnight. The main event takes place the following day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with more than 20 teams competing in a whole hog cook-off and vying for the winning title of Best Barbecue in Wayne County. The festival also includes art and craft exhibits, musical performance and children’s entertainment.

If you’re going, Goldsboro is just over 400 miles from Atlanta (about six-and-a-half hours), with most of the travel on I-20 East and I-95 North. For more info go to or call 919-735-2358.

Food and lodging

  • Plum Tree Gardens Bed & Breakfast, 109 S. George St. 919-736-9412.
  • Country Inn and Suites by Carlson, 2302 Norwood Ave. 919-581-0503.
  • The Brooklyn Pizzeria, 912 N. Spence Ave. 919-778-5666.
  • Lotus 1899 Asian Bistro, 108 N. John St. 919-735-5655.

World Grits Festival, April 12-14, Saint George, S.C.

The town of Saint George (the largest consumer of grits per capita in the world) celebrates (for the 28th year now) the legendary southern favorite, beginning Friday, April 12 at 9 a.m., with a slate of events in and around town that include grits-specific dining experiences, art and craft exhibits, a carnival, grits grinding demonstrations, a grits recipe judging and tasting contest and an evening musical presentation culminating with a performance by The Flashbacks, a retro ‘50s and ‘60s cover band. On Saturday the celebrating kicks off at 7 a.m. with a regional-flavored breakfast. Later events include a clothesline art exhibit, grits rolling for children contest (yes, they actually roll around in grits), a parade and a hula hoop and grits eating contest. Among the performances slated for Saturday afternoon and evening are the Carolina Dancers, Orangeburg Line Dancers and musical artists Wrangler Rockin’ Country, local favorite Gene Brownlee and U.B.U. The Band, a popular beach music group. Saint George’s grits-o-mania concludes Sunday, beginning at noon and wrapping up at 4 p.m. with more fine grits dining, another grits rolling contest (this one’s for adults), musical performance by Reggae Infinity and additional exhibits and contests.

St. George is 240 miles from Atlanta (about a four-hour drive) with a large portion a straight shot east on I-20 to Augusta and the rest predominantly east on U.S. Hwy. 78. For more details, go to or call 843-563-0103.

Food and lodging

  • Saint George Quality Inn, 6014 West Jim Bilton Blvd. 843-563-4581
  • Country Hearth Inn, 104 Interstate Dr. 843-563-2277.
  • Empire Restaurant, 5920 West Jim Bilton Blvd. 843-563-9900.
  • Georgio's Pizza, 5945 West Jim Bilton Blvd. 843-563-9030.

Mount Olive Pickle Festival, April 20-21 and April 26-28, Mount Olive, N.C.

After you’re done with barbecue and grits you can take a brief break to gear up for the 26th Annual Mount Olive Pickle Festival. On April 20 at 6 p.m. officials will crown a winner in the North Carolina Pickle Princess Pageant, to be held at the historic Mount Olive Assembly Hall. The winner will make appearances the following day at 3 p.m. at the Pickle Me Pink Tea Party (location to be announced) and again throughout the official festival the following weekend April 26-27. The schedule of events for April 26 boasts multiple vendors, carnival rides, entertainers and games for children. April 26 is geared slightly more toward an adult (but family-friendly) audience, with a 5k race, Tour de Pickle Bike Ride, motorcycle, antique car and tractor shows and live entertainment on three stages. The trip to Mount Olive from Atlanta is approximately six hours and 15 minutes (425 miles), with most of the driving on I-20 East and I-95 North. More information on the Mount Olive Pickle Festival can be found at or by calling 919 658-3113.

Food and lodging

(In Mount Olive)

  • Sleep Inn and Suites, 203 N.C. Hwy. 55. 919-658-1002.
  • Nino's Italian Restaurant, 1130 N. Breazeale Ave. 919-658-1051. (In Goldsboro about 15 minutes away)
  • Hampton Inn, 905 N Spence Ave. 877-499-9745.
  • Wilber's Barbecue, 4172 U.S.Hwy. 70. 919-778-5218.

Cooterfest, May 10-11, Allendale, S.C.

Now that you’ve stuffed yourself full of barbecue, grits and pickles, why not try some cooter pie or cooter soup? In case you’re wondering exactly what a cooter is, it’s a large aquatic-dwelling, hard-shelled turtle, found primarily in the southeastern United States. Although cooters are considered to be a delicacy and desirable food source in some regions, Allendale’s 29th Annual Cooterfest really isn’t about eating cooters, although there are recipes on the festival’s website. In fact, the festival is much more about celebrating the livelihood and character of cooters with a two-day throw-down that includes a cooter race and contests for smallest and largest cooters. While size and race contests are limited to cooters, other breeds are welcome to attend. The festivities begin Friday, May 10 at 4 p.m. with vendor booth openings, followed by carnival rides and street dance parties, with The Tams and, later in the evening, a live DJ.

On Saturday cooter-lovers can continue to revel with a parade, the much anticipated cooter race, live music and an event-closing fireworks display. From Atlanta, the trip to Allendale is barely over 200 miles, with most travel on I-20 East and South Carolina State Road 125.For details visit or call 803-584-4619.

Food and lodging

  • The Executive Inn, 1921 Main St. N. 803-584-2184.
  • The Allendale Motor Court, 1645 Main St. N. 803-584-4202.
  • Latisha's Café, 1206 S. Main St. 803-584-5159.
  • China Buffet, 399 S. Main St. 803-584-5718.