Get festive with a few of these

Charlotte plays host to a number of festivals throughout the calendar year, ranging from explorations of the diverse cultures within the local community to celebrating fine arts, food, music and more.

Some, such as the Renaissance Festival, are localized renditions of national concepts. Others – such as UNC Charlotte’s International Festival and Festival in the Park – are quintessential Charlotte, in the minds of area residents.

Here’s a quick glimpse at just a few events that make Charlotteans feel festive:

Festival in the Park(Sept. 19-21, 1900 East Blvd., Charlotte.)

This will be the arts and crafts festival’s 50th year in Charlotte and organizers estimated the event drew roughly 90,000 in 2013. After getting its start as a celebration of the arts, this has landed on state, regional and national lists of best festivals.

Featuring food, live music and arts performances, Festival in the Park also boasts a family-friendly environment with a full lineup of children’s activities.

More than 100 artisans and craft vendors from Charlotte and across the country can set up exhibits, which can make for great shopping.

Details: www.festivalinthepark.org.

UNC Charlotte’s International Festival(Sept. 20, Barnhardt Student Activity Center, UNC Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd., Charlotte.)

This free, day-long event has been drawing thousands of participants and attendees since its founding in 1975.

UNCC’s international students and members of Charlotte’s international community staff booths that feature artistic aspects from nearly 50 different countries.

The festival offers games; music and dancing on indoor and outdoor stages; arts and crafts and food vendors.

Details: ifest.uncc.edu.

Charlotte Oktoberfest Beer Festival(Sept. 27, NC Music Factory, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., Charlotte.)

Here’s one for the adults: Charlotte’s Oktoberfest benefits different charity partners each year by coupling local, regional and international breweries with a crowd thirsty for craft beer, ciders and unique brews.

Organizers estimate nearly $500,000 have been raised for area charities since the festival started 16 years ago. In 2013, attendees sampled more than 300 beers from nearly 150 breweries.

Tickets for 2014 went on sale Aug. 1 and the event has had no problem selling out in years past. Festival staples include live entertainment, food vendors and games such as corn hole.

Details: www.charlotteoktoberfest.com.

Latin American Festival(Oct. 12, Symphony Park at SouthPark mall, 4400 Sharon Road, Charlotte.)

This will be the 24th fall fest, organizers say, noting a limited number of visual artists have the chance to display their work for an estimated 25,000 attendees.

Live music is a huge draw – 2014’s lineup is billed as the best yet – and the authentic dances, foods and traditional vendors are also favorites.

The 2014 call for vendors emphasized a desire for arts and crafts native to Latin America, particularly those handmade or locally crafted.

Details: bit.ly/1n7L80l.

Carolina Renaissance Festival(Saturdays and Sundays, Oct. 4-Nov. 23, 16445 Poplar Tent Road, Huntersville.)

Since its Charlotte-area start in 1994, the 16th-century-European-style arts and entertainment fest has grown to be one of the biggest in the country, according to organizers.

In addition to live performances such as jousting, music and comedy on 11 stages throughout the day, the artisan marketplace hosts more than 100 vendors, ranging from pottery and jewelry to costumes and weaponry.

Food and drink vendors run the gamut from oversized turkey legs and sweet potato turnovers to corn on the cob and ale tastings. Each weekend also has a special theme: Think Halloween, Celtic music, pirates’ Christmas and more.

Details: www.royalfaires.com/carolina.


Kings Drive Art Walk(April 25-26, Little Sugar Creek Greenway, 600 S. Kings Drive.)

This is the younger sibling event of Festival in the Park and will celebrate its fifth year in 2015.

The fine arts festival features juried artists across multiple mediums, as well as pieces for sale.

In 2014, live music ranged from acoustical musicians to a jazz performance stage at the Metropolitan, the mixed-use commercial/residential development along the greenway.

Details: www.festivalinthepark.org.

Coca-Cola Speed Street(May 21-23, Uptown Charlotte.)

Typically held over Memorial Day weekend in conjunction with the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Speed Street draws race fans and enthusiasts uptown with multiple days of free exhibits and entertainment.

For more than 20 years, the annual event has drawn thousands, with appearances by top drivers, local, regional and national vendors, and a number of kids’ activities.

In 2014, the festival hosted the state qualifier for Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot-Dog Eating Contest for the first time.

Details: 600festival.com.

Taste of Charlotte(June 5-7, Uptown Charlotte.)

In early summer, several blocks are packed with people sampling the tastes of homegrown and national restaurants.

More than 30 restaurants were featured in 2014 – the festival’s 16th year – and together offered more than 100 menu items. Organizers estimate more than 80,000 visitors came out in 2013.

Sights and smells are free, but cash and credit are needed to purchase festival coins, good for food and drink.

Live music, dance and marketplace shopping are also available for festival-goers who need a breather between courses.

Details: www.tasteofcharlotte.com.

Bon Odori Japanese Festival(Second Saturday in August, Uptown Charlotte.)

This celebration of Japanese culture has been held in Charlotte for 30 years. Featuring food, games, dancing, music, origami, tea ceremonies and more, the annual festival typically draws at least 5,000.

“Bon” refers to the second week in August, when honor is paid to the spirits of family ancestors, and “Odori” is the traditional dance performed only during the summer festival, event coordinators have said.

Details: bit.ly/1n7F0it.

Yiasou Greek Festival(First week/weekend in September, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 600 East Blvd., Charlotte.)

Festival organizers say that “Yiasou” is Greek for “hello,” “goodbye” and “cheers.”

This multi-day celebration, which dates back to 1978, is usually held in early September, and one highlight is the tours of the cathedral – not to be lost among the food, traditional music and dance and vendor marketplace.

Food is such a huge part of the celebration that organizers usually offer a “drive-thru” menu with pickup available on Winthrop Avenue between East Boulevard and East Worthington Avenue. A box of baklava to go? Yes, please.

Details: yiasoufestival.org.