Big or small, festivals are a staple of life in North Carolina. There are far too many to list here, but we wanted to highlight the ones you told us were your favorites. For more complete listings of festivals and events, visit ncfestivals.com or visitnc.com/calendar.
Dolphin Dip (Jan. 1): Join a few thousand brave souls for a New Year’s Day plunge into the chilly waters off Surf City. Bring your courage and maybe a costume.
Info: Roland Avenue Beach Access, Surf City. dolphindip.net
N.C. Azalea Festival (April): A weeklong Southern-style celebration of spring featuring a street fair, a parade, a garden party and of course, the Azalea Festival queen!
Info: Wilmington. 910-794-4650 or ncazaleafestival.org
Merlefest (April): A four-day, family-friendly “traditional-plus” music festival honoring the lives and legacies of N.C. musicians Eddy Merle Watson and now his father, Doc Watson, who died last year.
Info: Wilkes Community College, 1328 S. Collegiate Drive, Wilkesboro. 800-343-7857 or merlefest.org
Brevard Music Center Festival (summer): Gifted high school and college students and distinguished guests from the classical music world give dozens of public performances in a beautiful setting.
Info: Brevard Music Center, Brevard College, 400 N. Broad St., Brevard. 828-862-2100 or brevardmusic.org
Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament (June): Some of the best anglers in the country flock to Morehead City each year for this event, hooked in by the excitement of public weigh-ins, a big purse and the even bigger challenge of catching a prize fish.
Info: Morehead City. 252-247-3575 or thebigrock.com
Earth and Surf Fest (July): This festival promotes and celebrates the outdoors and green living – all in the spirit of fun. Surfing contests, beach yoga, a shoreline cleanup and more.
Info: Beach Access No.2, 2950 Island Drive, North Topsail Beach. 910-330-3140 or earthandsurffest.com
Dirty Dancing Festival (August): There’s plenty of dancing at this event, which celebrates the 1987 movie that put Lake Lure on the map (even if it was disguised as the Catskills). If you’d rather sit and watch, bring a picnic and settle in for a lakeside screening of the film. Just make sure you don’t put Baby in a corner.
Info: Lake Lure. dirtydancingfestival.com
UNC-Charlotte’s International Festival (September): Booths representing dozens of nations offer food, crafts and information about cultures from around the world.
Info: Barnhardt Student Activity Center, UNC-Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd., Charlotte. 704-687-7781 or ifest.uncc.edu
Mountain Heritage Day (September): A showcase for the art, music, crafts and people of the Southern Appalachians.
Info: Western Carolina University, 1 University Drive, Cullowhee., 828-227-7129 or mountainheritageday.com
Seafood Festival (October): Learn about North Carolina’s seafood industry while you enjoy the freshest catch. Don’t miss the blessing of the fleet, regatta, family fishing tournament and fireworks.
Info: Morehead City. 252-726-6273 or ncseafoodfestival.org
Woolly Worm Festival (October): Mountain folks have a tradition of “reading” a woolly worm’s colors in the fall to predict how severe the coming winter will be. A full day of woolly worm races at the festival determines which worm will be used to make the official prediction.
Info: Downtown Banner Elk. 800-972-2183 or woollyworm.com
Whirligig Festival (November): Inspired by the folk-art creations of a local artist, this festival celebrates all kinds of arts and crafts, but especially the spinning, whimsical whirligig.
Info: Downtown Wilson. sites.google.com/site/whirligigfestival
STAFF WRITER STACY CHANDLER