As August comes to a close, the fresh smell of apples, cinnamon and all-spice wafts through the air and people dive into their closets to find their collection of autumnal sweaters and spiced scented candles.
Fall is just around the corner, and the season’s arrival is more than just overpriced pumpkin spice lattes or hues of red, orange and yellow. Many communities host fall festivals to get people in the mood for the season, and the Carolinas are home to a bevy of unique celebrations.
Qnotes has created a guide to some of the most popular and anticipated events taking place in September and October across North Carolina, as well as some in South Carolina, for celebrating the fall season. Here is what you need to know:
North Carolina Apple Festival — Hendersonville
The North Carolina Apple Festival is held every Labor Day weekend in Hendersonville and has been a Western North Carolina tradition for over seven decades. According to the festival’s website: “Growing apples has been part of Henderson County’s culture and heritage since the mid 1700s. North Carolina is the seventh largest apple producing state in the nation and Henderson County grows 80 percent of this state’s crop.” The four-day long festival is slated to take place September 1 through September 4 and will include a street fair with apples, arts & crafts, festival food and free entertainment at the Historic Courthouse at Main Street.
Autumn at Oz — Beech Mountain
Hikers and tourists alike can follow the Yellow Brick Road through Beech Mountain to the annual Autumn at Oz festival, a multi-weekend-long Wizard of Oz-themed festival. The festival includes several activities, such as arts and crafts, handmade trinkets, memorabilia and food vendors, but what makes the Autumn at Oz festival different is the immersive theatrics which transport visitors into the story of Oz, full of character interactions and more. “Guests are engulfed into the classic story as you travel into the Gale Kansas Farm, through the tornado experience and down the yellow brick road to the Emerald City,” the festival’s website reads. Autumn at Oz will be open September 8-10, 15-17 and 22-24.
Mecktoberfest — Charlotte
Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, located at 4150 Yancey Road, will host Mecktoberfest for two weekends in September — the 15th through the 17th and the 22nd through the 24th.
Mecktoberfest is one of the largest Oktoberfest events in the Charlotte area and will feature live music through both weekends. Mecktoberfest hours will be from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays.
The website confirms a variety of beer releases, German-style food, and lots of entertainment.
Art in Autumn Festival — Weaverville
This year marks the 16th annual Art in Autumn Festival — which will take place on September 16 — in Weaverville, just seven miles from Asheville. The festival is organized by the Weaverville Business Association, which was established to support “a thriving business community in the Weaverville area” and “sponsor community events, designed to bring folks together and promote the unique spirit and pride of Weaverville.”
Over 100 artists are featured in this annual arts event, which include musicians, craftsmen, visual artists, sculptors and more. Art pieces can be submitted into the festival’s art show to be judged by this year’s guest judge, Cynthia Bringle.
The event’s website indicates Bringle runs a gallery in Penland with her twin sister, and has taught at Penland School of Crafts, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, and John C. Campbell Folk School. Also from the website: “During the show, artists are juried by our esteemed Judge to receive awards of $1000 for best of show, $500 for second place, and $250 for third, as well as 4 $50 honorable mentions.”
CenterFest — Durham
The Durham Arts Council will be hosting its annual CenterFest Arts Festival on September 16 and 17. According to the festival’s website, Durham’s signature event “showcases juried visual artists from across the country and fills multiple stages with stand-out local performers.” The festival will have a kids zone, live entertainment, local vendors and concessions and more.
“Art shoppers are dazzled by world-class ceramics, paintings, photography, jewelry, fiber art, woodwork, glass, and more,” the website reads. “Taking place in the heart of Durham’s historic downtown, a concentration of local businesses and eateries elevate the visitor experience!”
Charlotte’s 59th Annual Festival in the Park
A much-loved Queen City tradition since 1964, Charlotte’s Festival in the Park brings throngs of Charlotteans to Freedom Park for live entertainment, food, music and fun. Camelot-style exhibit tents for photographers, sculptors, painters and artisans of all kind are decorated with lights encircle the scenic lake. Overhead lighting put in place specifically for the event allow the presentation to continue into the the evening.
Festival in the Park takes place Friday, September 22 through Sunday, September 24.
Carolina in the Fall Music and Food Festival— Wilkesboro
The annual Carolina in the Fall Music and Food Festival is making its comeback on September 22 and 23 this year. The weekend will be filled with music, food trucks and fun, according to the event’s website.
The festival will have several vendors and host its annual Chad Lovette Trail Run, a 5k and 10k race held in memory of Chad Lovette, a native of Wilkes County who passed away on July 9, 2016 after he was diagnosed with brain cancer.
“He was a singer/songwriter and most enjoyed playing music with his band, Green House, and with his brother,” according to the website. “All proceeds from entry fees will be donated to the American Cancer Society.”
Mead Fest — Pittsboro
Want to enjoy some Renaissance, small town fun? Mead Fest in Pittsboro may just be the festival for you! Located at The Plant, Mead Fest is a family-friendly festival full of medieval themed activities, from jousting competitions to mead tastings. The event is held every fourth Saturday in September, which this year is September 23 from noon to 5 p.m.
“We have food trucks, sword fighting knights, Renaissance music, home mead making demonstrations, lots of arts and crafts vendors – including jewelry, critters, wood, and many more great items,” the Starrlight Mead website reads. “Come in costume if you’d like, enjoy local food for purchase, mead tastings and more.”
Lumbee Tribe of N.C. Powwow — Maxton
The Lumbee Tribe is one of the eight native tribes local to North Carolina. On the weekend of September 29, 30 and October 1, the tribe will host its annual powwow at the Lumbee Tribe Cultural Center.
While the powwow isn’t a “fall festival,” the event highlights and emphasizes the importance of fellowship and celebrates the new season through Lumbee traditions, such as food, dance, games and more. Admission for adults is $10, $5 for seniors and youth under 18 and free for children under 5.
Spring Hope National Pumpkin Festival — Spring Hope
The Spring Hope Chamber of Commerce will sponsor the 50th annual Spring Hope National Pumpkin Festival on the weekend of October 6 and 7 in downtown.
The event is nationally recognized by pumpkin enthusiasts and brings people from across the country together to see some of the largest gourds harvested each season. In addition to traditional weigh-in contests, the pumpkin festival will also have food vendors, live music, arts and crafts, a carnival, pumpkin carving and more.
Falling for Local — Raleigh
The first weekend of October will be a busy one for Raleigh residents as the annual Falling for Local festival is slated to take place at Dorothea Dix Park on October 7. The event begins at 11 a.m. and will feature a market filled with local vendors and goods, as well as a wide range of food trucks and caterers to choose from. The event will have an area for children’s activities and will showcase local musicians through the live entertainment.
Autumn Leaves Festival — Mount Airy
Andy Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy (often referred to as ‘Mayberry’) hosts an annual autumn celebration called the Autumn Leaves Festival. This year’s event will be on October 13 and run for three days. “People from all over the country and the local citizens flood the streets of Downtown Mount Airy during this three day festival,” the event’s website details. “You’ll find vendors with one-of-a-kind handcrafted items and foods that people wait all year to enjoy, must-see attractions, and some of the best musicians around.” The 56th Autumn Leaves Festival is free and open to the public, and will showcase local businesses, restaurants, musicians as they celebrate the fall vibes.
Festifall Arts Markets — Chapel Hill
Festifall is Chapel Hill’s annual arts celebration taking place over the course of three Saturdays in October — October 14, 21 and 28. The event is hosted by Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture and will take place from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on each Saturday.
“There will be an art market with around 30 different vendors from across the state, selling art and handcrafted items, from jewelry to pottery to textiles,” the festival’s webpage offers. “Attendees of all ages can take part in community mural making, led by a different local artist each week.” Each Saturday will also have live music and food vendors in addition to the market and interactive mural activity.
Autumn with Topsail Festival — Topsail Island
Towards the end of October, Topsail Island will be the location of the annual Autumn with Topsail Festival — a family-friendly event at the grounds of the Historical Society of Topsail Island and the Assembly Building. The festival started in 1988 as a way to showcase artists and musicians to the community, as well as celebrate fellowship with friends and loved ones. “The festival features an Artists’ and Crafts Court with over 100 regional artists displaying and selling their work,” according to the website. “Enjoy exciting live musical entertainment, a variety of amazing food with beer and wine, games and rides for children, and much more!”