After the winter chill, people are ready to get outside and celebrate something when the weather turns. Here are some spring festivals around the Southeast to consider, road trip-worthy events to either get the ya-yas out or just get out.
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Southland Jubilee, April 20, Greensboro, Georgia
With an event showcasing an authentic slice of rural, small-town America, 2019 marks the 21st year of the Southland Jubilee in tiny Greensboro (population 3,384). This town steeped in a rich agricultural past sits far enough away from Atlanta to remain unaffected by it but close enough for easy access. The festival spotlights all things local and regional. Main Street is closed off to feature homegrown artisans, foodstuffs, music, a hot-rod car show and plenty of amusements and entertainment for the kids. Festival Hall, the historic old high school gymnasium turned performance arts venue, will host children's entertainment throughout the day. southlandjubilee.com
Double Decker Arts Festival, April 26-27, Oxford, Mississippi
Oxford has contributed a lot to Southern culture over the years, from the literary arts anchored firmly in Faulkner but stretching way beyond Rowan Oak to the culinary greatness that makes it the home of the Southern Foodways Alliance and John Beard Award winners. Double Decker spotlights these things, as well as an eclectic music lineup on the historic downtown square. The fest is named for the iconic two-level red buses that cart visitors on tours throughout this vibrant, artsy college hamlet. doubledeckerfestival.com, @DoubleDeckerArt
Forgotten Coast en Plein Air, May 3-12, Port. St. Joe, Florida
You can purchase still-wet paintings fresh off the easels of internationally acclaimed artists at this arts festival now entering its second decade. At this event held along the Forgotten Coast of the Panhandle, the invitational artists capture the historic structures and natural beauty area beyond the rigid confines of a studio, “en plein air,” or in the outdoors, becoming part of the landscape they are capturing. It’s a place for quiet reflection sought out by art lovers and collectors who come to snatch up the latest works from some of the world’s best visual artists while watching them work in the elements.forgottencoastculturalcoalition.wildapricot.org
Do Dah Day, May 18, Birmingham, Alabama
Feel free to bring your leashed, well-behaved pups to this festival where they can march in a parade and attend concerts in the park with you. The parade is a highlight with dogs and their people decked out in costumes and wending their way down verdant and curving Highland Avenue alongside homemade floats. Going strong since the early 1990s when it morphed from a longtime annual party among friends to a full-fledged festival, the Southside event features plenty of local food and music in the parks situated along the historic thoroughfare. Proceeds from parade entry fees and other festival fundraising efforts go to support local animal welfare organizations. dodahday.org, @DoDahDay
Spoleto USA and Piccolo Spoleto, May 24-June 9, Charleston, South Carolina
Spoleto USA is such a huge festival and so wide-ranging in scope that it has its own noncompeting, complementary festival. While Spoleto has an international flair with performing arts ranging from opera and ballet to theater, jazz and dance, Piccolo Spoleto focuses more on Southern culture, including literary and visual arts. Inspired by and named after the famous festival in Spoleto, Italy, the American event stretches out over 17 days with performances at theaters, churches and outdoor venues spread throughout the city. spoletousa.org, @SpoletoFestival; piccolospoleto.com, @Piccolo_Spoleto
Riverbend, May 29 to June 1, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Bonnaroo may have more name recognition as a Tennessee music festival, but Chattanooga’s Riverbend draws far more people over its eight nights in late spring. Some nights, it draws as many people as Bonnaroo does over an entire weekend. Named for the giant bend in the Tennessee River where downtown Chattanooga sits, this is a multigenre music festival with five stages, the main stage set up on a river barge with the crowd sitting in an amphitheater-style seating area on the riverbank. The river fills up with boats to take in the festivities as well. The 2018 lineup at press time includes Delbert McClinton, Hank Williams Jr., Gangstagrass and Luke Combs. riverbendfestival.com, @rbfestival
Other noteworthy spring festivals
International Cherry Blossom Festival. March 27 to April 5, Macon, Georgia. Kick off spring in the “Cherry Blossom Capital of the World” with arts, crafts, live music, food and hot air balloon rides. cherryblossom.com, @pinkestparty
Bear on the Square Mountain Festival. April 27-28, Dahlonega, Georgia. Named after a real-life incident when a bear cub took refuge in a tree on the town square, the festival celebrates Southern Appalachia. www.bearonthesquare.org, @beardahlonega
MerleFest. April 25-28, Wilkesboro, North Carolina. The little folk fest that could, named in memory of Merle Watson, has grown into the premier roots-based music festival in the country. merlefest.org, @MerleFest
Greening Up the Mountains. April 27, Sylva, North Carolina. Street festival in an idyllic downtown area with local artisans, musicians, and a strong sustainability theme. greeningupthemountains.com
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