Food & Drink

Southern Food Festivals to Savor This Spring

Mark your calendars for surf, turf, and sweet onions

Photo: Matt Ray Photography

A dish from Feast Wilmington.

With few major holidays in the spring, Southerners choose to celebrate food instead. Below, find a sample of events showcasing the region’s rich tapestry of cuisines and traditions, with some old-fashioned fun on the side.

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Rhythm and Ribs

March 1–2, Tifton, Georgia

photo: Vital Lens Production

Kick off the season with music and a barbecue cook-off at this family-friendly affair at Tifton’s Fulwood Park. The extracurricular activities are indeed extra—there’s a professional disc dog show, rock climbing, Gellyball (paintball’s less messy cousin), and mechanical bull riding, to name a few. Live bands will be playing all day, including headliner Travis Denning. 

Charleston Wine & Food

March 6–10, Charleston, South Carolina

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This weekend-long event pours plenty of wine, beer, cocktails, and even zero-proof beverages throughout a “culinary village” in North Charleston’s Riverfront Park. Come hungry because there will be snacks, fresh seafood, and local food trucks—then work off the indulgence by browsing handmade wares in the artisan market or dancing at a silent disco (a musical event using headphones rather than speakers).

Feast Wilmington 

March 22–24, Wilmington, North Carolina

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This first-annual festival features four events at Riverfront Park. Head to the VIP Kickoff on Friday for immersive chef tables and specialty drinks. Saturday’s offerings include Brunch Elevated, where mixologists and chefs put their spin on classics, and the evening Pier Party, focusing on local seafood and farm-to-table fare. Wrapping up the weekend is Sunday’s Craft + Cuisine, at which twenty breweries create pairings alongside local chefs.

Vidalia Onion Festival 

April 23–28, Vidalia, Georgia

photo: Courtesy of the Vidalia Onion Festival
Freshly fried sweet onion rings.

Enjoy the sweetest alliums in the South, if not anywhere, during the onion recipe contest and onion eating contest at this five-day affair. The carnival has rides for the whole family, but you won’t want to miss the Bulls, Broncos & Barrels rodeo on Friday and Saturday or the Blue Angels air shows Saturday and Sunday. Friday night also brings a concert from Georgia’s own Lauren Alaina.

Arnaudville Étouffée Festival 

April 26–28,  Arnaudville, Louisiana

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Grab a plate, or plates, of this smothered seafood classic, then make your decision on which resident-submitted dish is the best. You can also hop aboard some carnival rides and enjoy live music from local bands, but what’s a Southern festival without a little Bingo? (You’ll find it in the Little Flower Auditorium.)

National Cornbread Festival

April 27–28, South Pittsburg, Tennessee

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At this weekend celebration west of Chattanooga, bands will play on three stages while festivalgoers down all the cornbread they want and partake in wild contests like buttermilk chugging. South Pittsburg is the home of Lodge Cast Iron, so be sure to head to the Cast Iron Cook-Off Stage for a cornbread-making showdown, plus tips on seasoning and cooking with the South’s favorite skillet.

Crawfish Festival

May 24–26, Fredericksburg, Texas

At the Fredericksburg Marktplatz, toast to a Southern favorite–mudbugs! Get your fill of Cajun food and catch the live snake exhibit before hitting the shops for some official “crawfish gear” to commemorate your visit. Don’t miss Louisiana’s “Rockin Fiddler,” Waylon Thibodeaux, along with more colorful music acts.

Brews, Brine, and Wine 

May 31, Hayes, Virginia

photo: Courtesy of the Cook Foundation

In case the name didn’t give it away, this art-filled event at Machicomoco State Park combines local beer and wine with bivalves (from Cappahosic Oyster Company). Plein air artists will be painting the scenery in real time, and their works will go up for sale starting at 6:00 p.m., so you can bring home a one-of-a-kind souvenir.