10 Spring Festivals to Signal the End of Winter
Fairhope Arts & Crafts Festival
Celebrate the start of spring on the Alabama coast in the artists’ retreat of Fairhope at the town’s 62nd annual festival. Over 230 exhibitors from throughout the nation will bring their best works to show and sell at this prestigious juried show, named a top 20 event in the southeast in March by Alabama Tourism. The festival is free and held from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
Beneath the moss-covered trees of Alabama’s largest historic district, Selma opens its doors for the 39th annual Historic Selma Pilgrimage. This annual event offers visitors a chance to experience hands-on history through guided tours of antebellum homes, museums and more. Other pilgrimage activities include a quilt show, Alabama Plein Air Artists “painting the town” and offering their works for sale, art shows at the Selma Art Guild, a tour of a working 1860s gristmill and an Antique Symposium. A pass to all daytime activities is $50, and a package ticket is $60. Other events are priced individually.
Jane Austen Literary Festival
Sponsored by the Jane Austen Foundation of Louisiana, the seventh-annual festival includes the return of The Perfect Love Letter Competition, along with the No Plain Janes Costume Contest, Looking for Mr. Darcy Contest, a poetry reading, guest speakers, afternoon tea and lots more. All festival goers are encouraged to wear costumes from the era. Most Saturday events are free and open to the public, with Sunday events priced at $35.
Spring Plantation Tours
Georgetown, South Carolina
Popular with decorators, Southern history buffs, gardeners and visitors to South Carolina’s coast, Georgetown’s Plantation and Town House Tour and Tea has been put on by the women of Prince George, Winyah, Episcopal Church, for 66 years. The growing of indigo in Colonial America, then rice in the 19th century created an elite society in the area, which left behind beautiful dwellings, gardens and public buildings, open to visitors only once a year. A limited number of tickets, priced at $40, is sold for each day; two-day passes are $70.
Atlanta Dogwood Festival
Take in Atlanta’s signature blooming trees at the city’s oldest festival featuring a fine art market, live music, international stage performers from around the globe, gourmet fare and more. The artist market includes 260 or more artists selected from over a thousand entries, with works ranging from painting to jewelry, fiber arts to sculpture in Piedmont Park.
Vidalia Onion Festival
Celebrate Georgia’s official state vegetable with headliner Uncle Kracker, a two-day arts and crafts show and the Golden Onion professional chef competition. There’s also the Vidalia Onion Recipe Contest, the Miss Vidalia Onion Pageant, a Battle of the Bands and carnival. True Vidalia onions can only be found in this region of Georgia and are available annually from late April through mid-September, so don’t miss the chance to taste them during the season kickoff. Golden Onion is free, but the Uncle Kracker show is $5 and the arts and crafts show $3.
Art of Cool Music Festival
Durham, North Carolina
Dedicated to the presentation, promotion and preservation of jazz and jazz-roots music, this inaugural festival is being dubbed “not your parents’ jazz festival.” Started by Dr. Cicely Mitchell, a biostatistician, and Professor Al Strong, a trumpeter who has played alongside Aretha Franklin, Art of Cool will feature funk legend Maceo Parker, Grammy winner Robert Glasper, Alice Smith and more in Durham’s American Tobacco District. Day passes are $65 and a two-day pass $120.
Virginia’s Historic Garden Week
April 26-May 3
State of Virginia
Each spring, visitors are welcomed to more than 250 of Virginia’s most beautiful gardens, homes and historic landmarks during “America’s Largest Open House.” This eight-day statewide event provides a unique opportunity to see unforgettable gardens at the peak of Virginia’s springtime color, as well as beautiful houses sparkling with over 2,000 fabulous flower arrangements created by Garden Club of Virginia members. There’s also the chance to see Mount Vernon and Monticello, which sparked the event in 1927, when a flower show was organized to raise money to save some of the trees planted by Thomas Jefferson himself on the lawn. A statewide pass is $175 per person, and tour prices vary by location and range from $15 to $40 per tour.
Key West Songwriters Festival
Key West, Florida
Sara Evans, Anders Osborne, Kacey Musgraves, Robert Earl Keen, Tony Joe White and Dean Dillon are jut some of the songwriters headlining this Florida Keys festival. After a record-breaking year in 2013, the 2014 edition promises to deliver even more finely-crafted music and stories behind the hits. New Orleans musician Anders Osborne kicks things off May 7 on the Sunset Pier at the Ocean Key Resort, and over the course of five days, more than 50 free shows and in-the-round showcases will follow, including a free concert on Duval Street with Sara Evans. Passes to six ticketed shows will go on sale mid-March.
May 23-June 8
Charleston, South Carolina
For 17 days and nights each spring, Spoleto Festival fills Charleston’s historic theaters, churches and outdoor spaces with over 150 performances by world-renowned artists, as well as emerging performers in opera, theater, dance, and chamber, symphonic, choral and jazz music. Led by the American premiere of Daphne du Maurier’s gothic thriller “My Cousin Rachel,” the 2014 festival will also present the American premiere of “Facing Goya,” a contemporary opera by award-winning film composer Michael Nyman; Finnish aerialist Ilona Jäntti; the highly anticipated debut of Dorrance Dance, a New York-based tap troupe whose leader was called “the most interesting tap choreographer to have sprung up in years” by The New York Times; and banjo virtuosos Béla Fleck. Tickets for events are priced individually and available online or at the Charleston Visitor Center Box Office starting on March 17.
Photo credits, from top: Fairhope Arts & Crafts Festival poster, Key West Songwriters Festival from www.keywestsongwritersfestival.com, Atlanta Dogwood Festival from festival Facebook page, Albemarle courtesy of GCVirginia and Dorrance Dance courtesy of Spoleto Festival.