Celebrate Fall at Colorful Events Across North Carolina

Celebrate Fall at Colorful Events Across North Carolina

See spectacular liftoffs and landings at Carolina BalloonFest in Statesville in mid-October

From first-time festivals to annual favorites, lively events fill the fall calendar in North Carolina. Show-stopping foliage, spirited music and irresistible fare add color and texture to celebrations from the mountains to the sea.

September

Hollerin’ Heritage Festival
Sept. 13, Spiveys Corner
Nobody hollers or celebrates the age-old communication form like the folks around Spiveys Corner, where a hearty holler might be heard three miles away. And they’ve proved it every year since 1969 with the National Hollerin’ Contest. This year’s festivities will have a barbecue cook-off, music, antique cars and tractors and a demonstration by the North Carolina Work Horse and Mule Association.

Brunswick Waterfest
Sept. 27, Leland
Leland, a fast-growing town near Wilmington, asserts its riverside identity with the second annual two-part Brunswick WaterFest. The new festival location at the USS North Carolina Battleship Park will host a saltwater kayak fishing tournament, river and wildlife tours, a birding excursion, plus two new events – the Reel Paddling Film Festival and stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga.

Mayberry Days
Sept. 25 – 28, Mount Airy
To be honest, every day is a Mayberry day in Mount Airy, Andy Griffith’s hometown and inspiration for The Andy Griffith Show setting. But this September celebration is when you can see Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn) and others associated with the show and channel the era with a checkers tournament, pork chop-eating and apple-peeling contests, trivia competitions and horseshoes plus entertainment and a parade.

Tweetsie Ghost Train Halloween Festival
Sept. 26 - Nov. 1, Blowing Rock
Guests of all ages will enjoy spooktacular family fun at the park, and brave Ghost Train riders will experience frights and delights around every corner as the train howls its way through the Blue Ridge Mountains. While some attractions are recommended for adults and older children, there are plenty of shows and activities for Tweetsie's youngest guests, too.

Mountains to Coast Bicycle Ride
Sept. 27 – Oct. 4, various locations statewide
See the state in all its fall glory on this scenic ride from Spruce Pine to Atlantic Beach. Riders can go the full 490-mile distance or join in at the host towns of Morganton, Troutman, Asheboro, Holly Springs, Goldsboro and New Bern. Daily rides average 60 to 70 miles.

October

Dixie Classic Fair
Oct. 3 – 12, Winston-Salem
North Carolina's second-largest agricultural fair celebrates 132 years of fun, food and competition this fall. The annual event features thrilling carnival rides and booths, more than 100 food concessionaires (with plenty of deep-fried fare), a children's barnyard zoo, concerts, and agriculture, food and crafts competitions.

Ava Gardner Festival
Oct. 3 – 5, Smithfield
A visit to the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield is itself an occasion, a chance to see costumes, movie posters, awards and 40 Bert Pfeiffer portraits of this radiant actress. In 2014, the museum’s annual festival makes visiting even more special, combining a celebration of the sultry elegance of Ava Gardner's fashion style and an appearance by Justin LeBlanc, Project Runway Season 12 finalist. You can go all out yourself with an Ava's Closet Festival Package that includes Friday's Fashion Fling, museum admission all weekend, one Heritage Tour pass and one Clayton Piano Festival ticket.

Wilmington Riverfest
Oct. 3 – 5, Wilmington
This family-friendly cultural festival is held along Wilmington’s scenic Cape Fear River. Now in its 36th year, the weekend includes about 200 craft and food vendors, entertainment on two stages, the Invasion of the Pirates, treasure hunt and ball, fireworks, a Run the River 8K, the Great Waiters’ Wine Race, Kidz Zone and more.

Colorfest: Fine Arts and Fine Crafts Fair
Oct. 4, Dillsboro
Visitors see more than art on display at this street festival – they see art being made as painters capture scenes in the picturesque Great Smoky Mountains town. Add music, regional wine and craft beer, North Carolina fare and brilliant foliage to complete the picture.

Brushy Mountain Apple Festival
Oct. 4, North Wilkesboro
This free, one-day arts and crafts festival is among the largest in the Southeast. In addition to local growers selling apples, apple cider and dried apples, festival-goers will find more than 425 arts and crafts, 100 food concessions and four music stages. The festival also highlights Appalachian Heritage crafts such as woodcarving, chair making, soap making, pottery throwing and quilting.

Autumn at Oz
Oct. 4 – 5, Beech Mountain
Travel back in time to 1939 to the world of "Oz" high atop Beech Mountain at the Land of Oz park. Children and adults alike will be enchanted as they experience the re-creation of Dorothy's trip from her farm home in Kansas through the twister and down the yellow brick road to the "Land of Oz." Along your journey you'll meet a full cast portraying vibrant characters similar to those in the movie.

North Carolina State Fair
Oct. 16 – 26, Raleigh
The fun stretches on and on each fall at the state fairgrounds in Raleigh with a Folkfest, grandstand shows, agricultural exhibits and competitions, rides and games, Kiddleland Fun Park, and, this season, a Year of the Horse celebration. The 2014 North Carolina State Fair Dorton Arena lineup includes "Throwback Thursday" headliner Vanilla Ice, as well as performances by Tamela Mann, Clay Walker, Parmalee, Love and Theft, James Gregory, Brandy Clark, Newsboys, Trace Adkins, and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

Carolina BalloonFest
Oct. 17 – 19, Statesville
Soaring for 41 years, the festival features 50 colorful hot air balloons, mass ascensions, a Saturday night balloon glow, balloon rides, plus such well-grounded pursuits as local wine sampling, craft beer and food, entertainment and children’s activities.

Woolly Worm Festival
Oct. 18 – 19, Banner Elk
Here’s our prediction: Fall foliage will be near its peak in Banner Elk when Isabella tiger moths race up 42-inch strings to forecast the severity of the coming winter. We further predict that the 20,000 festivalgoers will delight in the fun, food and mountain setting – regardless of whether their woolly worm wins the race.

Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival
Oct. 21 – 26, various coastal locations
Take a walk – or a paddle – on the wild side along North Carolina’s Outer Banks and inner coastline. Serious birders flock to Wings Over Water for one of the East Coast’s largest concentrations of wintering waterfowl. Photography, painting and videotaping sessions, moonlight paddles, a reception and dinner with “birdman” Noah Strycker are all part of the adventure. There's even a chance to visit Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge at night and use spotlights to watch for deer, bear, birds and other wildlife.

Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree
Oct. 23 – Nov. 2, Hatteras and Ocracoke
You never knew who’d show up for one of Edward Teach’s parties on Ocracoke Island in 1718, but you can count on Captain Horatio Sinbad making the scene at this event. Sinbad will invade the pirate encampment at the center of the two-island festival, which features a Scalawag School, tricks-of-the-pirate-trade demonstrations, a sing-along, a three-ship battle and a memorial service near the place where Blackbeard last thrust his sword.

Barbecue Festival
Oct. 25, Lexington
Even without the music, craft vendors and other activities, people would flock to the Barbecue Festival, now in its 30th year, Even without the music, craft vendors and other activities, people would flock to the Barbecue Festival, now in its 31st year, which unfolds in a town whose name is synonymous with pit-cooked pork. Organizers are planning for more than 400 exhibitors and some 200,000 visitors who can pig out on festival day and take part in a month’s worth of events.

November

Wilson Whirligig Festival
Nov. 1 – 2, Wilson
Vollis Simpson turned metal scraps into towering delight with his kinetic, wind-powered whirligigs, displayed at museums in New York, Atlanta, Baltimore and Raleigh. For the full effect, head for the fun of the Wilson Whirligig Festival’s many events and visit the Windmill Farm to marvel at more than 30 of the whirligigs Simpson designed and constructed on his property before his death at age 94.

Seagrove Pottery Festival
Nov. 22 – 23, Seagrove
The Museum of North Carolina Traditional Pottery presents this 33rd annual event, where the largest pottery community in the country comes together to sell its wares. The festival features a potters market, auction of signed and dated pottery, demonstrations and food vendors.

Find dozens more fall festivals in our events calendar.

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