Food & Drink

Seven Festivals that Celebrate the South’s Summer Bounty

Sample and take home Arkansas pink tomatoes, North Carolina figs, Georgia peaches, Florida Key limes and more at these homegrown hooplas

Ripe summer peaces at a local farmer's market

Photo: Adobe Stock

For towns throughout the South, a certain fruit or vegetable can be more than a crop; it can be a reminder of history, a source of local pride, and a cause for celebration. Below, find out about the residents of Bradley County, Arkansas, and their pink tomatoes, Ocracokers who know how to bake a fig cake, Floridians who swear by the Key lime for pretty much everything, and more stewards of sweet summer traditions.

Stay in Touch with G&G
Get The Skillet, our weekly food and drink newsletter.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Georgia Peach Festival

May 31–June 1 2024

Fort Valley and Byron, Georgia 

There’s nowhere sweeter to eat a peach than in Georgia. The state has long been known for the fruit—the first trees were planted in the 1700s—and Peach County is the heart of the industry today, producing fully half of the state’s annual 1.7 million bushels. The first Georgia Peach Festival took place in 1922, but it was called off four years later because it was bringing in an overwhelming 40,000 people. In 1986, residents revived the historic celebration, and now it stretches on a week and is split between the towns of Fort Valley and Byron, with each hosting a peach-filled weekend. Fun fact: The world’s heaviest peach, a 1.8 pounder, was grown in Fort Valley in 2018.

Texas Blueberry Festival

June 8, 2024

Nacogdoches, Texas

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Texas Blueberry Festival (@texasblueberryfestival)

On the second Saturday in June, nearly 20,000 people descend on this Texas town—the oldest one in the Lone Star State, dating to 1779—to celebrate an annual bumper crop. Blueberries thrive in the acidic soils of East Texas, and blueberry farms dot the area around Nacogdoches;  the festival even offers a shuttle to visit them and purchase the berries directly. Meanwhile, in the historic downtown, there’s blueberry pie eating and a blueberry cupcake contest.

Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival 

June 14–15, 2024

Warren, Arkansas 

Pink tomatoes are so beloved in the Natural State that they’re designated as both the state fruit and vegetable. In Bradley County, once the heart of tomato growing in Arkansas, farmers in the fifties and sixties were shipping out some 290,000 tons of the sweet, mild tomato, developed for its ability to be picked at “first breaker,” or ripening, when the top of the fruit turned pink. Every summer since 1956, the residents of Warren have thrown a festival to honor the fruit and its farmers. There are tomato eating contests and an all-tomato luncheon—plus plenty of farm-ripe tomatoes, pink and otherwise, to take home. 

Hampton County Watermelon Festival

June 15–22, 2024

Varnville and Hampton, South Carolina

South Carolina plants over 3,000 acres of watermelons annually, and many of them—Charleston grays, Garrisons, cannon balls, and crimson sweets—pop up at the Hampton County Watermelon Festival. It’s the state’s oldest continuing festival, dating back to 1939, and has enjoyed several historical moments over its decades, including when former vice president Alben Barkley served as the parade’s grand marshal. 

Key Lime Festival

July 3–7, 2024

Key West, Florida

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Key Lime Festival (@keylimefestival)

Though Key limes themselves are native to tropical Southeast Asia, they have been a Florida staple since their introduction in 1838. Every year, the yellowish green fruit comes into season between June and September, and Keys residents spend five days baking up a citrus storm at the Key Lime Festival. Besides the pies, the fruit turns up in dishes like French toast, shrimp cocktails, local grouper, and even beignets. There’s a pie drop on Saturday, plus a chance to learn how to care for your own Key lime tree before taking one home. 

McLoud Blackberry Festival

July 12–13, 2024

McLoud, Oklahoma 

This high-summer celebration started out as a town picnic in the 1940s to mark the end of the year’s blackberry harvest, then a major local cash crop. President Harry Truman put McLoud, and their festival on the map when he sampled blackberries the town sent him and declared it the blackberry capital of the world. Though blackberries are no longer a primary crop there, the celebration lives on, and locals and visitors can taste local berries in cobblers, sodas, jam, and teas, plus whatever competitors dream up for the blackberry baking contest. 

Ocracoke Fig Festival 

August 4–5, 2024

Ocracoke, North Carolina 

English colonists planted fig trees on Ocracoke Island some two centuries ago, and since then the fruit—whether pound fig, sugar fig, lemon fig, or blue fig—has been an important part of this strip of Outer Banks culture. Traditionally, Ocracoke figs made their way into a regular butter cake baked in thin layers, but an early-twentieth-century resident named Margaret Garrish perfected what is now considered the classic fig cake of the island. Get the recipe here, or sample it at the festival.