September 2014

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Feeling Festive

By Chelsea Brown, Molly Dollinger, and Jennifer Ann La Vine

Posted: Wednesday, Apr. 10, 2013

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Just in time for the spring season, we’ve rounded up a list of the top annual festivals to hit town. From can’t-miss cultural performances to international films and fare, consider this your year-round guide to navigating Charlotte’s best fests.

RURAL HILL SCOTTISH FESTIVAL

Ever dreamed of participating in a battle-axe competition? Attending a whiskey seminar? Learning how best to herd your sheep? Ok, maybe not. But this festival might just tempt you. The tartan-clad fun starts with the free Call of the Clans ceremony on Friday and the highland dancing and acts continue through Sunday. Tickets range from $7 to $25. April 19-21, 704-875-3113, www.ruralhillscottishfestivals.net

EARTH DAY FESTIVAL

This 19th-annual celebration of the Earth and environment offers guided hikes, horseback rides, kayaking and even a petting zoo. And, of course, visitors will have a chance to experience the natural going on every day at this 2,100-acre preserve. You’ll find environmental groups, food vendors and the Carolina Raptor Center on hand. Plus, a 5K “Earth Shaker” trail run will be held at twilight to close out the day’s festivities. April 20, Ann Springs Close Greenway, 1604 U.S. 21, Fort Mill, SC, 803-548-7252, www.leroysprings.com/Greenway.html

DRAGON BOAT RACE AND ASIAN FESTIVAL

The largest Asian festival in the Carolinas, this event on Lake Norman includes dragon boat races, dancing, dishes, and competitions. The multi-cultural day, which began in 2000, attracts more than 7,000 visitors each year to compete in the boats and check out the traditional Asian costumes and fare. Admission is free. May 4, Ramsey Creek Park on Lake Norman, Cornelius, www.charlottedragonboat.com

CAROLINA REBELLION

Rock the night away at this two-day concert featuring live performance by Three Days Grace, Papa Roach, Rise Against, All That Remains, Bullet for my Valentine, among others. Love it so much you don’t want to leave? Camping options are available on site. Tickets range from $25 to $250. May 4-5, Rock City Campgrounds, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, 314-726-8020, www.carolinarebellion.com

CAROLINA CLAY MATTERS POTTERY FESTIVAL

At this biannual pottery festival you’ll find functional and decorative art from more than 140 local artists, all of whom are members of the Clay Matters Guild. These artists specialize in everything from clay figurines to garden lanterns to avant-garde sculpture. Admission is free. May 11, McAlpine Business Park, 8300 Monroe Rd., www.carolinaclaymatters.blogspot.com" target="www.carolinaclaymatters.blogspot.com

RURAL HILL BREWERS AND MUSIC FESTIVAL

Get ready to camp out because you’ll want to stay late at this event featuring tastings from North Carolina brews and samplings of local tunes. Bands like Sol Driven Train, Acoustic Syndicate, and Milkdrive perform throughout the day with beer tasting happening in the afternoon. May 11, 4431 Neck Rd., Huntersville, 704-875-3113, www.ruralhill.net" target="www.ruralhill.net

FESTA ITALIANA CHARLOTTE

Viva Italy at this festival dedicated to the country’s culture, music, and famously delicious food. This festival, which has been around since 2006 and benefits the Nevins Center in Charlotte, features guest chefs, cooking demonstrations, and plenty of tasting opportunities. May 19, Queens University of Charlotte; www.festaitalianacharlotte.org

FOOD LION SPEED STREET 600 FESTIVAL

Celebrating its 19th year, this festival turns over the streets of Charlotte to lovers of fast cars, southern food, and live music. One of the largest festivals in the Southeast, Speed Street draws close to half a million people for its live music from popular bands, appearances by top Sprint Cup Drivers and NASCAR car showcases. Admission is free. May 23-25, 704-455-8888, www.600festival.com" target="www.600festival.com

SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL

With a logo touting a picture of Shakespeare in sunglasses and a floral print blouse, you know you’re in for a good time. For the diehard Shakespeare lover or the casual culture seeker, the 8th-annual Charlotte Shakespeare Festival will feature two full-length productions of The Taming of the Shrew at The Green Uptown and Macbeth at the McGlohon Theatre at Spirit Square, plus educational workshops for the budding bard in you. Starting May 31, Admission is free with a $5 minimum suggested donation. 704-625-1288, www.charlotteshakespeare.com

TASTE OF CHARLOTTE

Tryon Street fills fast each year with this festival dedicated to offering a sample of Charlotte’s cuisine. In addition to the more than 30 familiar restaurants offering tastes from their menus, you’ll also find booths for locally made arts, crafts, jewelry, and clothes. Admission is free and attendees purchase coins to exchange for fare from restaurants. June 7-9. 704-262-9847, www.tasteofcharlotte.com

PRIDE FESTIVAL & PRIDE WEEK

Charlotte’s LGBT Pride festival is all about empowerment. Though the Pride Movement has roots in Charlotte that go as far back as the 1970’s, this year’s Charlotte Pride boasts a brand new organizing committee that’s 100% volunteer-driven. The popular summer festival will feature art exhibits, food booths, political speakers as well as music and plenty of entertainment. August 24-25, Uptown Charlotte, www.charlottepride.org

SIP AND STROLL AT EPICENTRE

Artists, vineyards, and performers fill up the three levels of uptown’s Epicentre for this fall festival. The weekend includes a kick off party, and an art walk, as well as the chance to simply peruse the booths. Admission is $20 a person for one day or $30 a person for a two-day pass. September 13-14, 210 East Trade Street, 704-936-5623, www.spinandstrollcharlotte.com

SUNSET JAZZ FESTIVAL

For more than 20 years, the Sunset Jazz Festival has been helping people “enjoy outstanding jazz music with friends and family,” says Dee Dixon, who oversees the festival. She notes that the festival also heightens cultural awareness in the Queen City—and is an excellent chance to enjoy some smooth jazz tunes. Admission is free. September 14, Symphony Park, 4400 Sharon Rd., 704-375-9553, www.charlottesunsetjazzfestival.com

FESTIVAL OF INDIA

Although one of the main draws of the Festival of India is its tantalizingly delicious food, it has plenty more to offer. Sure, go for the piping hot samosas and chilled mango lassis, but while you’re there, get a henna tattoo, learn how to wrap your own sari and—if you’re brave enough—belt your heart out in a singing competition. Tickets $7, kids 9 and under free. September 14-15, Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St., www.IndiaFestival.net

GREEK FESTIVAL

This Dilworth festival, located at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, has been a family favorite in Charlotte since 1978 with approximately 30,000 people attending each year. And sure, it’s a great cultural experience for learning about the Greek heritage through music, dancing, and crafts, but the gooey homemade baklava may be the biggest draw to this annual fest. Admission is only $2 for adults and children under 12 are free. September 13-16, 600 East Blvd., 704-334-4771, www.yiasoufestival.org

BBQ AND BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL

More than 20 teams will square off for the Greenway’s annual Barbecue & Bluegrass Festival, featuring some of the region’s best bluegrass bands and plenty of barbecue sampling. The festival cranks up Friday night with music and food vendors, as barbecue cook teams begin their overnight preparations. Plus, you’ll have plenty of chances to listen to bluegrass as five bands perform over two days. September 20-21, Ann Springs Close Greenway, 1604 U.S. 21, Fort Mill, SC, 803-548-7252, www.leroysprings.com/Greenway.html

FESTIVAL IN THE PARK

Festival in the Park, which launched in 1964, drew more than 160,000 visitors last year to check out its local music, art, and fare offerings. This granddaddy of Charlotte festivals features hundreds of artists performing around the lake and green hillsides throughout the weekend, making it the perfect spot to spend a September Saturday afternoon. September 20-22, Freedom Park, 704-338-1060, www.festivalinthepark.org

UNCC INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL

Since 1975, the UNCC International Festival has provided a creative platform for students, faculty, and community members to celebrate their diverse international heritage. Drawing more than 10,000 people each year and highlighting upwards of 50 countries, the festival centers in a lively on campus bazaar. Here you can sample food from all corners of the world, play a round of human chess, or get rowdy in a game of soccer. Admission is free and open to the public. September 28, 9201 University City Blvd., 704-687-7781, www.ifest.uncc.edu

OKTOBERFEST

Forget Munich. Charlotte’s Oktoberfest, which is celebrating its 15th year this year, is the brew-loving party you want to attend. The festival features live music and food from local spots, but the focus is, of course, the beer. And with Charlotte’s ever-evolving brew scene, there are plenty of regional breweries worth checking out. This year’s list already includes Birdsong Brewing, Free Range Brewing, and NoDa Brewing Company. Tickets are $60 for premium and $40 for general admission, and all attendees must be 21 or older. September 28, www.charlotteoktoberfest.com

GREAT GRAPES FESTIVAL

Stroll from tent to tent, tasting the hundreds of wines—many from North Carolina—available at this festival in SouthPark’s Sympony Park. In addition to the vino, you’ll also find specialty tents for perfect pairings like cheese, grilling, and olive oil. Plus, bring your blanket and soak up the sun as you listen to live music from the main stage. Tickets range from $20 to $35 and kids under 12 are admitted for free. October 5, 5440 Carnegie Blvd., www.uncorkthefun.com

CAROLINA RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL

Take a trip to 16th-century Europe, where knights fought for the fair maiden’s heart, and the food was fit for royalty at this festival set on 22 acres north of town. Cottages, castles, kitchens, and pubs populate the land allowing for fun filled jousting tournaments, feastings, and arts and crafts. Admission for adults costs $22 at the gate and children under 5 are free. October 5- November 24, on Saturday and Sundays. 16445 Poplar Tent Rd., Huntersville, 704-896-5544, www.royalfaires.com/carolina

LATIN AMERICAN FESTIVAL

Every year a quarter of a million people throng Symphony Park to sample Latin cuisine, listen to award-winning international musical acts, and browse artisanal craft stands in the “Plaza de Artistas.” Cultural Events Director Tony Arreaza calls the festival a foodie’s dream. “You could get a taco from Mexico, a pincho from Puerto Rico, an arepa from Venezuela, and an empanada from Costa Rica,” he says. Admission is $5, kids 7 and under free. October 13, Symphony Park, 4400 Sharon Rd., 704-941-2557, www.festivallatinoamericano.org

TIME WARNER CABLE BBQ AND BLUES FESTIVAL

Consider this fun fest your kickoff to the fall season. Packed with North Carolina’s favorite pork product alongside live blues, cold brews, games, and other local fare, this is a festival you’ll want to linger at long enough to eat twice. Want to test your own barbequing skills? Be a part of one of the 90 teams competing for $25,000 prize money and the Governor’s Cup Trophy. Admission is free. October 17-19. www.charlottebbqandblues.com

FIRST NIGHT CHARLOTTE

Hosted by WBTV, First Night Charlotte draws a festive crowd of all ages to celebrate the incoming new year with live entertainment, food and an alcohol-free environment. December 31, Uptown Charlotte, www.charlottecentercity.org/events/first-night-charlotte/

QUEEN CITY BREWERS FESTIVAL

Beer lovers, mark this one down now. QCBF returns for its 3rd year on Feb 1, 2014 (as always, the day before the Super Bowl) to remind us just what we love about the Queen City’s brews. Each brewery will feature its seasonal lineup as well as one “Super Brew” designed especially for the festival. Local music and food abound. Ticket prices and location are not yet set, but you’ll want to act fast when they’re for sale—2013 tickets sold out in just three hours. 704-441-3221, www.qcbrewfest.com

CHARLOTTE JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL

With screenings at Temple Israel, Shalom Park, Ballantyne Village Regal Cinemas, and Davidson College among others, this festival celebrates the Jewish culture through a variety of films. You’ll find romantic comedies, documentaries, dramas, and even children’s movies. All festival passes are available for $85, but tickets to individual screenings can also be purchased. 2014 dates TBA, 704-554-2059, www.charlottejewishfilm.com

CHARLOTTE BLACK FILM FESTIVAL

Celebrate local black film, documentaries and music videos at this annual event. Attracting filmmakers, actors, actresses and philanthropists from all over the country, the award ceremony of the festival has been called “The Black Oscars.” Planned for the beginning of Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Week, this weekend of festivities is full of films and festivities. 2014 dates TBA, www.charlotteblackfimfestival.com

PROJECTING HOPE FILM FESTIVAL

This weekend features films that offer inspiration. You’ll find movies with big names like John Schneider, Rosanna Arquette, and Vivica A. Fox among others. Plus, many of these are new releases you’ll be seeing before they hit the big screen. 2014 dates TBA. Ayrsley Grand Cinemas, 9110 King’s Parade Blvd., www.projectinghopecharlotte.com

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