Celebrate the cooler season! Beth E. Concepción shares her picks for an unforgettable autumn.
Perhaps no season in the Coastal Empire gives us more reasons to celebrate than the fall. After months of desperately seeking shade, swatting mosquitoes and entertaining kids plagued with cabin fever, we’re more than ready for a 20-degree respite.
Luckily, there’s no shortage of events in the area to ease you into the harvest months—everything from highbrow heels-and-champagne soirées to down-home jeans-and-beer jubilees. We dug up some of the best fests in the Southeast.
Spend a few sultry September nights taking in great music at the largest free festival in the Southeast. Did we mention it’s free?
When: Sept. 23-30
Where: Most of the events take place in Forsyth Park, but you can also enjoy jam sessions each night with your fried pickles at Blowin’ Smoke, 514 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Don’t miss: Jazz master Warren Chiasson plays the vibraphone with the University of North Florida Jazz Ensemble on Sept. 28, 9:30 p.m., in Forsyth Park. Plant yourself on a picnic blanket with some friends, food and wine, and enjoy the vibes.
Revel in Tybee Island’s rowdy past as an outpost for scalawags and scoundrels. Rabble-rousers dress the part in hopes of winning costume contests, but it’s a party the whole family can enjoy.
When: Oct. 4-7
Where: Tybee Island
Don’t Miss: The opening night Buccaneer Ball at The Crab Shack, where the Pirate King and Queen will be crowned to reign over the weekend’s festivities, including the parade on Saturday afternoon.
If you just can’t make the trek to Germany, give your life a little “oompah” by heading to River Street for this yearly event. On tap: bratwurst tasting, chicken dancing and beer, of course.
When: Oct. 5-7
Where: River Street
Don’t Miss: Dachshunds battle to be top dog in the annual crowd-pleasing Wiener Dog Races in Morrell Park on Oct. 6.
Georgia’s coastal waters are home to the rock shrimp, a Southeastern delicacy that looks and tastes like a cross between a shrimp and a lobster—in other words: delicious.
When: Oct. 6
Where: On the waterfront in historic downtown St. Marys
Don’t Miss: Eat a home-cooked rock shrimp dinner while you gaze out over the idyllic Saint Marys River.
Go back to yesteryear and learn the lost art of “turpentining” at the historic E. C. Carter still—one of only three such stills in Georgia. The process of making the valuable solvent begins with slashing pine trees to release the tar. Those slash marks apparently look like whiskers. Hence, the festival’s name.
When: Oct. 6-7
Where: Hwy. 80 in downtown Portal, 15 minutes northwest of Statesboro
Don’t Miss: Take in the parade, then witness demonstrations of how the old still works while nibbling on a rosin-baked potato. Burn off the carbs at a “street dance” to live music.
Stuff your face with spanakopita and shake off the calories by joining in the traditional dances at this annual festival.
When: Oct. 11-13
Where: St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church, 14 W. Anderson St.
Don’t Miss: Lunch and dinner combination plates mean there’s no need to choose among the divine dishes, and drive-through service lends New World convenience to Old World flavor.
This landmark event upholds folk singing traditions and honors new talent in the field with songwriting and musician workshops, performances, guitar sales and the Noteworthy Art Auction.
When: Oct. 12-14
Where: Points around town, including Ellis Square, First Presbyterian Church and Grayson Stadium
Don’t Miss: The Sunday Concert, 2-7:30 p.m. at Grayson Stadium, features acclaimed musicians and singers such as Doug MacLeod, Al Petteway, Amy White, Curley Maple and Deidre McCalla.
Savannah’s True Animal Lovers Meeting Others (ST. ALMO) hosts this annual parade and pet trick-or-treating event to raise money for local animal charities.
When: Oct. 20
Where: Various businesses throughout Savannah’s historic district
Don’t Miss: Who can resist a wiener dog in a wiener costume? Pet owners show their creativity in decorating themselves and their furry (or scaled or feathered) friends to gather pet-friendly treats.
If you like classic cars, you’ll love the Concours d’Elegance, where more than 150 classic cars compete for the coveted title, Best of Show. Other festival events include races and exhibitions.
When: Oct. 26-Nov. 4
Where: Most events take place at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn on Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Don’t Miss: Live out your Dale Earnhardt Jr. fantasy by taking a lap around the Hutchinson Island track during the Savannah Speed Classic, Oct. 26-28.
Independent movies, animated shorts and Hollywood blockbusters share the spotlight during this week-long cinéaste’s delight. A-listers such as Alec Baldwin, Michael Douglas, Jane Fonda, Sir Ian McKellan, Liam Neeson, Jeremy Renner and Catherine Zeta-Jones have been known to mingle with mere mortals and share their secrets of success during special workshops and panel discussions.
When: Oct. 27-Nov. 3
Where: Trustees Theater on Broughton Street and Lucas Theatre on Abercorn host the majority of the events.
Don’t Miss: The Director’s Choice remains a secret until the screen lights up, but it is always a hotly anticipated major film. Past choices include The Muppets, The Conspirator and Up in the Air.
Congregation Mickve Israel hosts what may be the largest Jewish food festival in the world.
When: Oct. 28
Where: Forsyth Park, downtown Savannah
Don’t Miss: Gorge yourself on authentic Jewish food such as chicken soup with matzo balls, challah, blintzes and rugelach.
With a name like “Chick’n Pick’n,” it’s got to be good. The festival celebrates Claxton Poultry, the largest employer in Evans County.
When: Nov. 12
Where: Evans County Wildlife Club just off U.S. Highway 280 W. in Claxton
Don’t Miss: Learn fowl-friendly recipes from a chicken cook-off and watch as iron-stomached competitors face off in a wing-eating contest.