Celebrate Fall at Colorful Events Across North Carolina

Celebrate Fall at Colorful Events Across North Carolina

The ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships come to the Nantahala River in 2013

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.

2013 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships
Sept. 2 – 8, Bryson City
The acrobats of the kayak world show off their cartwheels, blunts and airscrews on the Nantahala River at the ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships, being held in the United States for the first time. During breaks in the action, visitors can enjoy the festive atmosphere in the Great Smoky Mountains and also compete in SUP, team rodeo, and rubber ducky and canoe ball races.

Hollerin’ Heritage Festival
Sept. 14, 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 move from June to September and add a barbecue cook-off to the schedule, which also features music, antique cars and tractors, and a demonstration by the North Carolina Work Horse and Mule Association.

Brunswick Waterfest
Sept. 20 – 22, Leland
Leland, a fast-growing town near Wilmington, asserts its riverside identity with the first Brunswick WaterFest. A full moon will illuminate a kayak/SUP/owl-calling trip on Town Creek, while birding on Eagle Island, SUP racing on the river, a kayak fishing tournament and land activities all add to the weekend’s fun.

Mayberry Days
Sept. 26 – 29, 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.

Wide Open Bluegrass
Sept. 27 – 28, Raleigh
The biggest names in bluegrass converge on Raleigh for the International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass, a five-day affair that peaks with Wide Open Bluegrass. The inaugural weekend festival features a street fair, indoor and outdoor concerts, jam sessions and the North Carolina Whole Hog Barbecue State Championship. And the headliners will blow you away: Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell on Saturday and an epic collaboration featuring Alison Krauss, Del McCoury, Béla Fleck and others on Friday.

Tweetsie Ghost Train Halloween Festival
Sept. 27 - Nov. 2, 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. 28 – Oct. 5, 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. More than 1,100 cyclists from 38 states and five countries made the 2012 journey.

North Carolina Seafood Festival
Oct. 4 – 6, Morehead City
None of the 185,000 festivalgoers is likely to leave hungry: Seafood sampling along the port city waterfront covers everything from fried favorites to inspired chef creations – and that includes Charcoal Mullet and Sea Urchin on a Stick. You can aim to win an “I flung a flounder” T-shirt, watch the sailing regatta and attend Sunday morning’s Blessing of the Fleet, which pays tribute to the watermen who make it all possible.

Ava Gardner Festival
Oct. 4 – 6, 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. The festival makes it even more special with heritage tour to sites from Gardner’s early life, special events and free screenings of The Night of the Iguana, 2013’s festival focus.

Wilmington Riverfest
Oct. 4 - 6, Wilmington
This family-friendly cultural festival is held along Wilmington’s scenic Cape Fear River. Now in its 35th year, the weekend includes more than 200 craft vendors, 35 concessions booths, continuous entertainment on various stages, a Saturday night "pirate" flotilla and fireworks, a Run the River 8K, the Great Wine Waiter’s Race, Kidz Zone, exhibitions and sporting events.

Colorfest: Art and Taste of Appalachia
Oct. 5, 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. 5, 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. 5 - 6, 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.

Porsche by Design: Seducing Speed
Oct. 12 – Jan. 20, Raleigh
Autoweek, Art News and Luxury Daily are all spreading the word about the North Carolina Museum of Art’s first-ever design exhibition. Showcasing the brand’s style, innovation and artistry are 22 Porsches that combine horsepower and star power. Steve McQueen’s 356A Speedster, Janis Joplin’s 356C Cabriolet and Ralph Lauren’s Porsche Type 959 are among the models going on view.

Carolina BalloonFest
Oct. 18 – 20, Statesville
Celebrating its 40th consecutive year, the festival attracts more than 30,000 spectators. Between the spectacular liftoffs and landings, visitors can sample local wine, craft beer and food as well as entertainment and children’s activities.

Woolly Worm Festival
Oct. 19 – 20, 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. 22 – 27, 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 while photography and painting sessions, moonlight paddles, red wolf howlings, astronomy programs and a daylong Southern Backyard Boot Camp for gardeners broaden the appeal.

Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree
Oct. 25 – 27, 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 first-time 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 and a memorial service near the place where Blackbeard last thrust his sword.

Barbecue Festival
Oct. 26, Lexington
Even without the music, craft vendors and other activities, people would flock to the Barbecue Festival, now in its 30th year, which unfolds in a town whose name is synonymous with pit-cooked pork. Organizers are planning for 160,000 visitors, who can pig out, take part in a month’s worth of events, and buy Childress Vineyards’ Fine Swine Wine, which like the barbecue sauce is red.

Wilson Whirligig Festival
Nov. 2 – 3, Wilson
Vollis Simpson turned metal scraps into towering delight with his wind-powered whirligigs, which can be seen at museums in New York, Atlanta, Baltimore and Raleigh. For the full effect, head to the Wilson Whirligig Festival for the opening of the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, where 29 of the kinetic collector’s items are being installed (a third of them should be in place by November). Simpson died May 31 at his home in Lucama, about 10 miles from the park, at age 94.

Find dozens more fall festivals in our events calendar.

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