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Hospitality Shines At These Southern Events

Throughout the South, festivals and events allow travelers to immerse themselves in a specific passion, culture or geographic region. Short trips lend themselves well to these events since a wide variety of activities can be experienced in a compact time frame. Nostalgia, the culinary arts, music and history can all be found in abundance.

With the help of the 12 Travel South USA states, we’ve compiled a list of 50 of the best Southern events and festivals. And we’re paying special attention to six fabulous festivals that will make welcome additions to any itinerary or stand alone for that perfect weekend getaway.

In Arkansas, the King Biscuit Blues Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary with special musical headliners, including favorite blues artists from past festivals. Oktoberfest in Helen, Georgia, charms all who come to celebrate the arrival of autumn in this re-created Bavarian town. Groups can immerse themselves in Louisiana’s French heritage and culture at the Festival International de Louisiane, where it’s not uncommon to hear people speaking exclusively in French.

Along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, nostalgia and classic cars combine for a fun-filled week during Cruisin’ the Coast. Euphoria Greenville keeps it personal so festivalgoers can rub shoulders with top-notch, local and celebrity chefs, as well as talented musicians. And the heartbeat of the Richmond Folk Festival remains traditional folk art and music that’s deeply rooted in America’s communities and cultures.


King Biscuit Blues Festival

Helena, Arkansas

Blues enthusiasts already have their calendars marked for this year’s three-day King Biscuit Blues Festival, October 8-10. In its 30th year, the event has become one of the nation’s foremost showcases of blues music. Held near the banks of the Mississippi River, the festival has its roots deeply embedded in the Delta region.

The festival’s name originated in the charming town of Helena, which became legendary for the longest-running radio show in the Delta, called “King Biscuit Time.” Sonny Boy Williamson and other musicians played live on KFFA every weekday, pausing for King Biscuit Flour commercials and announcements of their next nighttime performances. B.B. King would come home from working in the fields every day just to listen to the radio show.

Five music stages feature gospel, acoustic and headliners. The Rising Biscuit stage features artists who aren’t paid to perform. The Bit of Blues stage showcases teen artists. Downtown’s Malco Theater hosts the Call and Response Blues Symposium. The event is co-moderated by two experts who are knowledgeable about the genre and its history.

“The music usually starts at 11 a.m. and plays all day until around 11 p.m.,” said spokeswoman Helen Halbert. “People come from all over the world year after year.”

On Saturday afternoon, the people’s choice barbecue contest offers samplings of each team’s entrees before the voting occurs. Last year, the barbecue contest had 13 teams competing.



Helen, Georgia

For a journey to Bavaria without crossing the Atlantic, Oktoberfest in the Blue Ridge Mountains might be the ideal fall trip. The delightful town of Helen, Georgia, serves as the quintessential backdrop for the festival. This re-created alpine village features cobblestone alleys and Bavarian Old World towers and storefronts. Recognized as the world’s longest Oktoberfest, the celebration will be held September 10-13 and September 17-November 1.

“Opening weekend after the Saturday parade, everyone comes back to the Festhalle for the official tapping of the Oktoberfest beer,” said Renee Chacon, executive director of the Helen Chamber of Commerce.

Each night of the festival, a German dinner is served with favorites including wurst, red cabbage, sauerkraut and German potato salad. There are six different kinds of wurst from which to choose, and there is “leberkäse,” akin to German meat loaf. The snack bar offers a Bavarian pretzel that’s imported from Germany and cooked on-site. Beverages include German beers and wines, as well as domestic beers.

“We have 17 beers on tap and about 40 different bottled beers. I’ve been told by band members who tour the country playing at festivals that we have one of the very best selections of beers in the nation,” said Chacon.

Motorcoaches can secure a step-on guide dressed in authentic Bavarian garb. The tour can cover historical areas and points of interest such as Anna Ruby Falls; Babyland General Hospital, birthplace of the Cabbage Patch dolls; Fred’s Famous Peanuts; and several wineries.

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.