September's festivals, events get branded Raleigh's M.A.I.N. Event

ccampbell@newsobserver.comAugust 2, 2013 

  • Five festivals in four weeks

    The streets of downtown Raleigh will be busy in September.

    • The African-American Cultural Festival, Aug. 31-Sept. 1.

    • Hopscotch Music Festival, Sept. 5-7.

    • SPARKcon, Sept. 12-15.

    • Ray Price Capital City Bikefest, Sept. 20-22.

    • The International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass, Sept. 24-28.

— It’s barely August, but city leaders are already gearing up for September, when a full slate of 11 downtown events is expected to draw more than 200,000 people – from motorcyclists to entrepreneurs.

Raleigh City Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin is working with event organizers to bill the entire month as the Raleigh M.A.I.N. Event. The acronym, unveiled during a press conference Friday on Fayetteville Street, stands for Music, Art, Innovation and Noise.

“It’s a huge economic impact,” Baldwin said.

At least one cultural festival will take over the streets every weekend in September, with a variety of entrepreneurship events sandwiched in between on weekdays. Baldwin says the packed schedule is symbolic of Raleigh’s rapid growth in the arts and 21st-century business.

When the event planners got together, she said, “we talked about Raleigh being cool and edgy.”

Four well-established festivals will draw big crowds on successive weekends – the African-American Cultural Festival, Hopscotch Music Festival, SPARKcon and the Ray Price Capital City Bikefest.

The final week of September brings a first for Raleigh: the International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass convention. The event is moving from Nashville this year and features performances from big names such as Steve Martin, Alison Krauss and Punch Brothers.

And while banjos and fiddles take over the convention center, Marbles Kids Museum will hold its sixth Birthday Blast a few blocks away at Moore Square.

September has a serious side, too, bringing in hundreds of out-of-town businesspeople for Triangle Entrepreneurship Week from Sept. 9-13. The week features the Raleigh Innovation Summit, a conference where business and creative types discuss the next big ideas for the region.

It’s followed a day later by the N.C. Datapalooza, which encourages programmers to make use of open data sets. Sept. 12 is also the date of the Cherokee McDonough Challenge, a competition among environmental start-up businesses to win $20,000 in seed money and free office space. And a few days later, the Council for Entrepreneurial Development comes to town for its Tech Venture Conference.

While each of the 11 events will likely attract different audiences, organizers hope the Raleigh M.A.I.N. Event cross-promotion effort will persuade people to step out of their festival comfort zone. Bikefest attendees, for example, might want to return downtown for bluegrass.

“To bring together all the events in September makes a lot of sense to me,” said Sarah Powers, who leads the SPARKcon arts and design festival.

Campbell: 919-829-4802 or

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