Fall arts guide: The NC State Fair and 16 festivals we can’t for

The NC State Fair, a perennial classic, was recently named the no. 9 fair in the nation. It takes place October 11-21st at the NC State Fair Grounds in Raleigh.
The NC State Fair, a perennial classic, was recently named the no. 9 fair in the nation. It takes place October 11-21st at the NC State Fair Grounds in Raleigh. newsobserver.com

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Fall Arts Guide 2018

Your guide to art openings, concerts, theater, dance, festivals and more in the Triangle.

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Fall in the Triangle brings a ton of music festivals, even raising questions about festival oversaturation.

But while you may have heard of some of the big names, like Hopscotch, Art of Cool and Dreamville Festival (the new project of Fayetteville rapper J. Cole), the region also plays host to a variety of fall festivals and gatherings, and not all are focused on music.

Here’s just a sampling of some of the festivals and events you’ll want to put on your calendars.

Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival

Cary’s annual festival takes over downtown with with juried art, entertainment, a kids zone, artist demonstrations and a repeat visit from the Town Crier. This year, look for a large scale “Solina: Dragonfly” display made of renewable materials. The colorful dragonfly installation will be assembled by artist Michael Roy Layne and volunteers.

The details: Aug. 25, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Aug. 26, 12:30 to 5 p.m. Go to the town’s website for details on shuttles, parking and schedules. townofcary.org

African American Cultural Festival

The annual celebration of African-American culture, arts and food brings thousands to downtown Raleigh over two days. Look for international artists at the art gallery walk, a marketplace of jewelry and clothing, food vendors and people sharing their traditions and heritage.

The details: Sept. 1, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sept. 2, 1 to 10 p.m. Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh. aacfestival.org


Join 70 breweries and 4,000 craft beer enthusiasts at Beericana. Sip N.C. brews, listen to N.C. bands, and grab a bite from an N.C. food truck at this festival devoted to the good things in life.

The details: Sept. 8, 12 noon-6 p.m. Sugg Farm Park, Holly Springs. 21 and up only. Presale prices (all tickets $10 more at gate): general admission (gates open at 2 p.m.): $45; VIP (early access at 12 noon, and access to the VIP tent): $75; music only (for non drinkers, includes early access at 12 p.m.): $15. https://bit.ly/1qyufer

Greek Festival

The Raleigh Greek Festival, now in its 37th year, features homemade Greek music and folk dances and plenty of delicious Greek food. A portion of the proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity, Homes for our Troops and Team Rubicon.

The details: Sept. 7-9. Jim Graham Building at the State Fairgrounds. $3 for adults, $2 for seniors and ages 13-18 and free for 13 and younger. raleighgreekfestival.com


Since 2006, SPARKcon has been bringing together creators with the motto “If it’s weird, it belongs at SPARKcon!” Most Raleigh residents will recognize it for its iconic sidewalk chalk art display, but SPARKcon is much more than that, also featuring comedy, dance, fashion, music, technology and more.

The details: Sept. 13-16. Downtown Raleigh. Free. https://bit.ly/2LqhodN

The long-running gathering of Raleigh insect enthusiasts, Bugfest, is back for its 22nd year at Bicentennial Plaza on September 15th. News & Observer File Photo newsobserver.com


The long-running gathering of Raleigh insect enthusiasts is back for its 22nd year. This year is themed around crayfish and other crustaceans, but as always, there will be exhibits and activities covering a wide variety of bugs, including beetles, caterpillars, spiders, cockroaches and more. Of particular interest will be Café Insecta, where local chefs serve dishes prepared with a variety of bugs. There also will be a bee-keeping workshop for aspiring apiarists (preregistration required; workshop fee is $10 per person).

The details: Sept. 15, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. NC Museum of Natural Sciences and Bicentennial Plaza, Raleigh. Free. https://bit.ly/2JubxSZ

RAL_ 20160917-centerfest2
The Durham Arts Council is bringing the 44th Annual CenterFest, The Art Lover’s Festival to downtown Durham on Sept 15- 16th. 2016 News & Observer File Photo - Mark Schultz mschultz@newsobserver.com

CenterFest Arts Festival

Downtown Durham will be filled with art, music and dance at the 44th annual CenterFest. Look for 145 juried visual artists from around the country along with 75 performing arts groups. Plus, food, crafts and more.

The details: Sept. 15, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Extended Saturday entertainment 6 to 11 p.m. Sept. 16, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. centerfest.durhamarts.org

The second annual Dragon Boat Festival is 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19, at Koka Booth Amphitheatre, 8003 Regency Parkway, Cary. The free event celebrates Asian culture and history and features dragon boat competitions, Asian food, stage performances, cultural exhibits and more. Jill Knight jhknight@newsobserver.com

Dragon Boat Festival

Asian Focus NC presents the fifth annual Dragon Boat Festival — replete with cultural displays, games, performances, food, and dragon boat racing.

The details: Sept. 22, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Koka Booth Amphitheatre, Cary. Ages 13 and up: $5 in advance, $8 at the door; seniors: $4 in advance, $7 at the door; ages 12 and under: free. https://bit.ly/2Lg5bLN

Capital City Bike Fest

Hear the roar as downtown Raleigh fills with motorcycles for the Capital City Bike Fest. This family friendly event will feature classic cars, tattoos, live music and, of course, motorcycles.

The details: Sept. 21-23. Tobacco Road Harley-Davidson dealership (1126 S. Saunders St.) and the Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh. A shuttle will transport attendees between the two locations. Events at the dealership: free; events at the Convention Center: $10 per person for the weekend. https://bit.ly/2zTn92a

City of Oaks Pirate Fest

The City of Oaks Pirate Fest, organized by the NC Museum of History, is a one-time only celebration of all things pirate. The year has already seen its fair share of pirate news, which is fitting, as 2018 marks the 300th anniversary of the grounding of Queen Anne’s Revenge, the ship commanded by Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard.

The festival will feature a pirate costume contest, food trucks, performances of sea shanties, demonstrations of sword combat and cannon operation, a display of pirate-related artifacts, and educational talks by pirate archeology experts.

The details: Sept. 22, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Bicentennial Plaza, Raleigh. Free. https://bit.ly/2uBBfzF

La Fiesta del Pueblo

Celebrate Latinx culture in Raleigh at La Fiesta del Pueblo. The fiesta will include food trucks, arts and crafts, cultural exhibits and a variety of performances.

The details: Sept. 23, 12 noon to 6 p.m. Fayetteville Street, Raleigh. Free. https://bit.ly/2L4boeM

NC State Fair

The NC State Fair, a perennial classic, was recently ranked 9th in the country by MSN.com. Enjoy fried foods, concerts, agricultural and arts and crafts expositions, games and rides.

The details: Oct. 11-21. NC State Fairgrounds, Raleigh. Ages 13-64: $8-$10; military: $6; ages 6-12: $3-$5; ages 5 and under: free; ages 64 and up; free. https://bit.ly/2L4XMzS

Triangle Oktoberfest

Celebrate fall the German way, without leaving the Triangle. The Cary McGregor and Apex Sunrise Rotary Clubs, the Town of Cary and Koka Booth Amphitheatre are bringing bratwurst, polka and beer to Cary.

And while traditional Oktoberfests may be devoted to drinking, this event will be fun for the whole family, and it raises money for charities. The Triangle Oktoberfest Foundation Board has set a goal of raising $100,000 this year. A dachshund (weiner dog) race, a hammerschlagen (nail driving) competition and a kinderplatz (kids’ corner) with face-painting, inflatables and games will ensure everyone is gut amüsiert (amused).

The details: Oct. 19, 5 to 10 p.m. and Oct. 20, noon to 9 p.m. Booth Amphitheatre, Cary. Ages 17 and up: $20; ages 16 and under: free. https://bit.ly/2NlsMs1

RAL_ International Festival
The International Festival of Raleigh highlights the cultural traditions of over 50 ethnic communities from around the Triangle Area with plenty of food, music, crafts, and activities. The festival takes place October 26-28th at Raleigh Convention Center. News & Observer File Photo newsobserver.com

International Festival

The International Festival of Raleigh is entering its 33rd year, highlighting the cultural traditions of over 50 ethnic communities from around the Triangle with plenty of food, music, crafts and activities. Of particular note, the festival will kick off with a naturalization ceremony for soon-to-be U.S. citizens.

The details: Oct. 26-28. Raleigh Convention Center. https://bit.ly/2ux5bgU

Raleigh Christmas Parade

Raleigh’s annual Christmas Parade is back, the largest such parade between Washington, D.C. and Atlanta. Line the parade route to see bands, floats, dancers, classic cars, superheros and more march through downtown Raleigh, and then watch the rebroadcast on Christmas morning.

The details: Nov. 17, 9:40 a.m. Starting on Hillsborough Street at St. Mary’s Street, and ending on Fayetteville Street at City Plaza, Raleigh. TV broadcast on ABC11 starting at 10 a.m., on both Nov. 17 and Dec. 25. https://bit.ly/2uvDUeN

Chinese Lantern Festival

The Chinese Lantern Festival will transform Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre into a winter wonderland. Viewers can walk through the displays, and should plan to spend 45-75 minutes viewing the lanterns.

The details: Nov. 23-Jan. 13, Tuesday-Saturday 6 p.m.-10 p.m., closed Mondays except December 24 and December 31. Koka Booth Amphitheatre, Cary. Ages 3-17: $10; ages 18 and up: $15; ages 2 and under: free; seniors 55+, students and members of the military: $12 on select nights. https://bit.ly/1YgQHJ9

First Night Raleigh

Ring in 2019 at First Night Raleigh. In the afternoon, get a jump on your New Years’ resolution by learning a new hobby at the Museum of History and the Museum of Natural Science. If you aren’t a night owl, there will be an early countdown at 7 p.m., and then the rest of the celebration gets under way. Enjoy performances, food trucks, rides, and more. The evening will conclude at midnight with the ceremonial acorn drop.

The details: Dec. 31, 2 to 11:59 p.m. Fayetteville Street, Raleigh. All-day pass: $11 in advance, $15 at the gate; VIP pass: $50 in advance. https://bit.ly/2L4cabG

Alex Lewontin: @alexclewontin
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