Fall into festival season

Image by Lana_Samcorp

By Amy Drew Thompson

It’s that time again. No, really. It finally is.

Retailers may inundate us with Halloween décor and candy corn on Aug. 1, but now fall has officially fallen, and the southeast’s active festival circuit is coming alive with arts, entertainment, food and drink to suit just about every flavor — and we’re not just talking pumpkin spice!

Where to get your Fall fest on? See below for a handful of options around the region.

Rollin’ on the river

It’s been a tradition near the comely banks of the St. John’s River in Florida for nearly 40 years, growing exponentially to the annual draw it is today. The Orange Park Fall Festival now attracts tens of thousands over its weekend run, art lovers and foodies and those in search of family fun, not to mention gorgeous Florida-fall weather!

What’s in store? Everything a traditional festival lover could want, with an autumnal bent. ‘Tis (getting close to) the season of giving, and there’s no place better than an arts and crafts gathering to find the range of works; a vast array of styles and mediums are represented.

But not all the wares are tangible.

Guests of all ages enjoy camping out amid the shade of the park’s towering oaks to enjoy live music throughout the festival. This year’s performance roster includes artists ranging from young students hailing from local communities around Orange Park to headliner Buddy Jewell, who recently won Male Vocalist of the Year at the Inspirational Country Music Awards.

Foodies are hardly forgotten. Traditional festival favorites, such as turkey legs, hot dogs and kettle corn, will be on-hand, as well as exciting options from local purveyors. Expand your palate into Cuban-, Filipino- and Middle-Eastern-inspired goodness. There’s also plenty to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Bourbon and brew: Kentucky true

This classic American spirit is as synonymous with Kentucky as the Derby and bluegrass, but the folks in beautiful Bowling Green love their brewers just as much as their distillers. Enjoy both — along with some fine fare to pair with — at the annual BG Brewfest.

Fans of fine whiskey will find favorite makers including Four Roses, Bulleit, Buffalo Trace and Jim Beam, but also enjoy exposure to smaller distilleries. New favorites are awaiting discovery! But fear not, beer and cider fans; there will be plenty for you to taste, as well.

Visitors to previous Brewfests will be pleased to note the expansion of the festival’s arts and crafts vendor roster, which makes the event appealing to those well beyond the beer and bourbon lovers. Shopping, live music and games — giant Jenga and corn hole among them — offer fun diversions amid all the sampling. And speaking of sampling, the local food trucks offer an array of foodstuffs to taste.

The Four Roses VIP experience levels up the festival fun with select Four Roses bourbons available for sampling in a private area with two VIP bars, catering and early festival access.

One peachy fall festival

It’s no surprise that the capital of the cosmopolitan south is home to one of the most lauded fall foodie extravaganzas in the region: Taste of Atlanta. This year, there are loads of new things to get excited about.

This festival’s entertainment continues to be top-notch. This year, it’s all-aboard because Yacht Rock Revue is pulling into port with its massive playlist of ‘70s-era hits so big, they’re loved by multiple generations. Food trucks will be on-hand this year for the first-time during concert night to keep the crowds sated while they rock out.

What’s typical is still a treat, though! Eats. Drinks. Learning experiences. All curated around the deliciousness this annual weekend soiree covets. Nearly 100 Atlanta-area restaurants will be participating. Barbecue to Brazilian. Hot chicken to Hawaiian poke. Exotic international to all-American. Check out the festival’s Food Districts, as well, with fun themes incorporating favorites like brunch and tailgating treats.

Those 21+ might consider the VIP experience, which offers a Friday-night sampling of more than 80 craft beers, wines, hand-mixed craft cocktails from the city’s best barkeeps and, of course, food! Sample amid fare you won’t find elsewhere at the festival in the VIP tents!

Taste of Atlanta has never been solely about eats and drinks, though; it’s about learning. 2019 is bringing with it an additional stage for its “Taste Talks,” where chefs and restaurateurs will share experiences and discuss the dynamics of Atlanta’s evolving culinary community.

Growth abounds this year at Taste of Atlanta. There’s more of everything: restaurants, music and even an expanded VIP footprint!

Fall for Greenville

It’s hard not to!

This local favorite in Greenville, South Carolina, has its roots in simplicity. The first version was a simple, one-day showcase of downtown Greenville’s emerging scene. Now it is four days long, encompassing many of the city’s wonderful eateries and bistros with more than 200 tastes to sample!

What’s more, it’s the largest free festival of its kind in the Palmetto State, drawing hundreds of thousands for food and fun.

Six stages boast myriad entertainment options (Did we mention this is free?!) by local and regional musical performers, along with other events ideal for the kiddos who come in tow. Looking for education? Culinary demos abound, along with wine tastings, a craft beer garden and various competitions between festival participants.

Foods repped? Just about anything you might be hankering for: American, Asian, Indian, Latin, Mediterranean, Mexican and more! Sheets of Taste Tickets ($5 for 10) are available for purchase and allow guests to wander and sample at will with no need to keep reaching for the wallet while walking about.

The music lineup may be more extensive than the food, if you can believe it. Styles represented run the gamut from rock, country, Motown, funk and blues to eclectic styles such as Texas swing and indie-folk.