There were festivals in the Triangle on Saturday to celebrate pagan pride, Greek heritage, Apex jazz, Raleigh street arts, exotic bugs, Durham music and arts, and, no doubt, more.
As summer swimming pools close, fall sports get going again and schools swing back into full schedule, the festival season cranks up, too.
And it’s not even officially fall yet. The autumnal equinox – when day and night are close to 12 hours each – occurs Sept. 22 this year.
For centuries, cultures the world over have come together at the equinoxes and solstices to celebrate the earth’s bountiful harvests. Those traditions have evolved and bloomed into a vast offering of festivals that extends well beyond this weekend and the next.
“This is like our big kick-off,” said Adrianne Matthews, a Raleigh resident who attended the 31st Annual Greek Festival at the Expo Center of the State Fairgrounds on Saturday.
Her mother, sister and soon-to-be sister-in-law had come from Guilford and Alamance counties to enjoy the food, music, dancing and all things Greek. They sampled gyros and baklava, as the aromas from oven-roasted lamb shanks, chicken riganato, moussaka and souvlakia wafted through the Expo Center.
Savannah Matthews, 4, emerged from the crowds in a bejeweled scarf and top from a belly dance costume, amusing her brother Aidan Matthews, 10, and the older women traveling with them.
“We’ve been watching for this one for almost a year,” Adrianne Matthews said of the Raleigh festival. “We’ll go to as many as we can, maybe another Greek festival, and some Renaissance fairs, too.”
Theresa Rubin, a Raleigh resident, was on the hunt at the same fairgrounds for a festival of a different flavor – Pagan Pride Raleigh, which takes pride in being one of the largest gatherings of Wiccans, druids, shamans and other Earth-centered spiritualists this side of New York City.
Rubin, too, hoped to sample festival food and browse the jewelry and other handmade crafts on the grassy fairgrounds nearby.
Good vibes for all
Brian Larue, director of public relations for the two-day Pagan Pride gathering, said his group kicked off its festival in an opening circle “calling the elements and creating good vibes for everybody throughout the day.”
Though the event looked like any other fair – with families, picnickers and inquisitive visitors – Larue said it offers different merchandise and workshops from other festivals. On Saturday, there were sessions such as Wild Earth Magick With Poetry, Fire/Poi Spinning for Beginners, Alchemy 101 and classes for creating incense blends.
On Sunday, there also will be workshops on how minerals, gems and stones can help with healing and spiritual growth, on writing spells through poetry and on basic rune reading.
At the entrance to the festival, there were barrels filled with donated cans for the N.C. Food Bank, an outreach and charity effort by the organizers.
The word pagan is a catchall to describe a wide range of beliefs with no specific creed. Many pagans say they worship the divine wherever they find it, in nature or in themselves. Some women, in particular, said they worship a female goddess.
Though once stigmatized for standing apart from more widespread religious practices, pagans say they have noticed a change in attitudes.
In 2007, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs accepted the pagan star, or pentacle, for its list of emblems allowed on government-issued headstones for soldiers.
“Events like this help us raise awareness about who we are,” Larue said. “That helps. Social media has helped, too. It makes it easier to reach out and set up events.”
As people at the Pagan Pride festival celebrated the Earth and nature, arts lovers were on their hands and knees in downtown Raleigh.
With some of the streets closed to traffic for SparkCon, a six-year-old festival celebrating artists and performers, the young and old created colorful sidewalk and street art featuring cartoon characters, trendy anime and other masterpieces.
Debora Good and Ray Petrolino and their 10-year-old son, Jude Petrolino, decided as a family that though much was happening this weekend, SparkCon and Bugfest would be their festivals this week.
“I just love seeing all the art here,” said Jude, a fifth-grader.
But he is open to seeing other art and hearing other music on weekends to come.
Good, whose husband calls her “the Energizer Bunny,” likes to book the family for as many weekend festivals as possible. But with so much to do, her husband has set limits.
“We’re down to one thing per weekend,” Good said with a smile.