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Asheville Festivals, Fairs, and Concerts
Here are some of the biggest and best festivals, fairs, and music concerts in the Asheville area. Admission to many of the events is free.
Bele Chere (www.belecherefestival.com), usually the last weekend in July, is one of the largest street festivals in the South. The three-day event takes over downtown with food, drink, and crafts booths, along with music at many different venues. Free admission (some concerts have a fee).
Brevard Music Festival (www.brevardmusic.org) is a classical music festival held at the Brevard Music Center in Brevard from mid-June to early August. The Brevard Music Center Orchestra and guest musicians, many of national note, present symphony concerts, operas, and chamber music. Boston Pops conductor and BBC Symphony principal conductor Keith Lockhart is the artistic director.
Brewgrass Festival (www.brewgrassfestival.com ), on a Saturday in mid-September, showcases more than 120 microbrew beers by about 40 brewers, along with a line-up of bluegrass and country musicians. The event is held in Martin Luther King Park, just east of downtown Asheville. Tickets must be purchased in advance, and they usually sell out weeks in advance. Those under 18 must be accompanied by a parent.
Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands (www.southernhighlandguilde.org ), fills the U.S. Cellular Center (formerly Asheville Civic Center) with more than 200 of the South's most talented craftspeople, members of the prestigious Southern Highland Crafts Guild. It has been held twice yearly, in mid-May and mid-October, since 1948.
Downtown After Five (www.ashevilledowntown.org ), held on the third Friday of the month (May-September) offers free local music from 5 to 9 pm. The event takes place at the foot of North Lexington Avenue between Hiawassee Street and the I-240 Overpass in downtown Asheville. Food and beverages are available.
Drumming Circle (www.ashevilledowntown.org ), held every Friday night (May-October, weather permitting) from 7 to 10 pm at Prichard Park downtown on Patton Avenue, is an authentic and free Asheville experience, with drumming and dancing. Bring a drum, tambourine, or cowbell and join in.
Folkmoot USA (www.folkmootusa.org) is the official international festival of North Carolina, with dance and folk music groups from around the world. It is held over two weeks in late July in Waynesville.
Goombay Festival (www.packplace.org ), a free weekend street festival in mid- to late August, celebrates the region's African-Caribbean heritage with Caribbean food, African dancing, and reggae, gospel, funk, and soul music. The festival is on South Market and Eagle streets in downtown Asheville just south of Pack Square, near the YMI Cultural Center.
Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) (www.theleaf.com ), held twice a year, in mid-May and mid-October, on 600 acres at the former site of Black Mountain College in Black Mountain, features more than 50 musicians and musical groups, plus arts, crafts, and poetry. LEAF admission is limited to about 5,500, it always sells out, and you must buy tickets in advance. Many attendees camp on the grounds.
Montford Park Players Shakespeare Festival (www.montfordparkplayers.org ) has been producing the Bard's dramas in Montford Park in North Asheville for more than 40 summers. The Players usually perform six or seven plays from April to September. Bring a picnic. Admission is free but a donation is requested.
Mountain Dance and Folk Festival (www.folkheritage.org ) is the longest-running folk festival in America, dating from 1928. The three-day event featuring Appalachian ballad singers, string bands, and square-dance teams is held "along about sundown" (7 pm) the first weekend in August at the Diane Wortham Theater in Pack Place.
NC Mountain State Fair (www.mountainfair.org) runs for 10 days in early September at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher, off I-26 near the Asheville Regional Airport. It has the usual midway rides and carnival food, but what makes it worth attending are the livestock shows, antique tractor displays, and competitions for preserved foods, baked goods, and crafts.
North Carolina Apple Festival ( www.ncapplefestival.org ) celebrates Hendersonville area's position as the leading apple producer in the state. Held Labor Day weekend, the Apple Festival occupies most of Main Street in downtown Hendersonville, with music, craft booths, and apple products. Admission is free.
River Arts District Studio Stroll (www.riverartsdistrict.com ), the largest studio tour in the region, is held on weekends in mid-June and mid-November, when some 200 artists and craftspeople at dozens of studios and galleries in Asheville's River Arts District demonstrate and sell their work. Free admission.
Riverfest (www.riverlink.org ) celebrates the revitalization of the French Broad River with local music, river rafting, an "anything-that-floats" parade on the river, and activities for kids. The festival is held in early August on Riverside Drive in Asheville.
Shindig on the Green (www.folkheritage.org ) brings traditional mountain music and dancing to Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville most Saturdays from June through August. The free fun starts at 7 pm, weather permitting. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and stake out your place on the green.Updated: 09-2013
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