Saturday in Atlanta: Relaxing day of outdoor jazz

Fans of smooth jazz can ease over to suburban Atlanta Saturday for the Jazz Grooves Atlanta Smooth Music Festival at Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre. Fattburger, Nick Colionne, Jackiem Joyner, Steve Oliver and Jeff Sparks are the featured performers. Admission to the 1:39-9:30 p.m. rain-or-shine event in Mableton, Ga., starts at $30 for lawn seating (no lawn chairs permitted - bring a blanket). Details:

Saturday in Nebo: Fun on the river - for a cause

The eight annual Catawba RiverFest, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday at Lake James State Park will be held in the park's newly-unveiled Paddy's Creek recreation area. Activities include: a water derby, kayak and canoe races, eco-tours of Lake James with the Catawba River Keepers, and bluegrass music from Strictly Clean and Decent, a band from Lenoir.

In addition, Carolina Raptor Center will release a rehabilitated raptor back into the wild.

The purpose of Catawba RiverFest is to create a greater appreciation for the Catawba River, while expanding efforts to protect this vital resource. A variety of conservation groups will be on hand to talk about ongoing projects to improve the quality of life for people and animals along the river. Admission: free.

The Paddy's Creek Area of Lake James State Park provides a superb venue. This new section of the park, located off N.C. Hwy. 126, includes: a 700-foot swimming beach, concession stand, two picnic shelters, individual picnic sites, three miles of hiking trails, and a 6,000-square-foot bathhouse. There is ample parking.

Festival details: 828-465-2755;

Saturday, in Sparta: Mountain fun - Relaxing day of outdoor jazz

The Mountain Heritage Festival, held in Sparta on Saturday, offers music, food, crafts, children's activities, antique cars, farm equipment, and the crowning of the Possum Queen. Old-time crafts are celebrated with demonstrations of cider pressing, chain-saw carving, blacksmithing, old-fashioned corn meal grinding and Christmas tree decorating. Admission: free. Sparta, in Alleghany County, is about two hours north of Charlotte, near the Virginia line. Details: 800-372-5473;

Sept. 24, in Cullowhee: Mountain music, crafts

Mountain Heritage Day will be Saturday on the Western Carolina University campus. The free-to-attend event is an old-fashioned mountain fair that also showcases Southern Appalachian music, dance and song. There will be more than 100 food vendors, a juried arts-and-crafts fair, two stages with live entertainment, heritage demonstrations and activities for children.

Details: 828-227-7129; Area info: 800-962-1911;

Sept. 24, in Elkin: The really great pumpkin (and other produce)

At the Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival, held in Elkin, serious produce growers will compete for the "heavyweight title" in several categories for growing produce. This festival is an official weigh-off for the Great Pumpkin Common Wealth, which oversees national competitions in giant pumpkin and vegetable growing. At the 2010 event, a watermelon weighing 275 pounds broke the world record for that fruit.

The free-admission festival also features craft vendors, food, children's activities and a pie-eating contest.

Details: 336- 526-1111; (click "Festivals & Events").

Spencer, N.C.: Order tickets now for fall train trip

Two fall foliage train trips, departing from the N.C. Transportation Museum in late October, offer ideal daytrip getaways.

The Museum Foundation and the Watauga Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society will host two excursions to Roanoke, Va. and Toccoa, Ga.

The Virginia Autumn Special will travel to Roanoke, Va., Oct 29. The Georgia Autumn Special features a day trip to Toccoa, Ga. Oct. 30.

Passengers have their choice of departure location for both trips, which originate at the museum, in Spencer. The Roanoke Excursion features additional passenger pick-up in Greensboro; the trip to Toccoa will add passengers with a stop in Spartanburg, S.C.

The Oct. 29 Virginia Autumn Special departs from the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer at 7 a.m. and from the Greensboro Amtrak Station will depart at 8 a.m.

The train will travel through the northern portion of the Piedmont, including the cities of High Point and Reidsville, before crossing into Virginia. The western part of central Virginia offers spectacular views of the fall foliage, crossing the Dan and Roanoke rivers. Moving onto the old Virginian Railway line, the train will pass through the towns of Huddleston, Moneda and Goodview, traveling through four tunnels. Passengers will also enjoy traveling over trestles that provide views of the tributaries into Smith Mountain Lake.

It arrives in Roanoke at noon. Departing at 2:45 p.m., the Virginia Autumn Special will return to Greensboro at 6:30 and Spencer at 8.

The Oct. 30 Georgia Autumn Special departs from the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer at 7 a.m. Those boarding at the Spartanburg Amtrak Station will depart at 9 a.m.

The ride will traverse what was once Southern Railway's main line, running from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta. Passengers will enjoy the fall colors of the foothills, before crossing the 100-foot Seneca River trestle spanning Lake Hartwell to arrive at Toccoa.

Departing Toccoa at 3 p.m., the Georgia Autumn Special will return to Spartanburg at 6 and Spencer at 8.

Tickets are selling quickly, with just Tourist Class tickets available for either trip. Cost: $145.

Details/tickets: to 704-636-2889;