The NC State Fair plus 21 festivals we can’t wait for this fall

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Fall 2019 Arts Guide

The Triangle guide to music, art, theater, dance, festivals and books in Fall 2019.

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It’s fall y’all. OK, well not officially fall until Sept. 23, but the fall feel befalls us when the school bell rings, college football kicks off and those 100-degree days start to wane — begging of days and nights spent whiling away at festivals and fairs.

While perennial faves Hopscotch, World of Bluegrass and Art of Cool are probably already on your calendar, here’s a host of other must-attend events worth tapping in iCal.


The details: Aug. 24, 2 to 10 p.m. Hillsborough Street, Raleigh. Free. packapalooza.ncsu.edu

The Pack is back as Live It Up! Hillsborough Street caps off Wolfpack Welcome Week with this annual daylong party. To celebrate, some 300-odd vendors line Hillsborough Street, where you and 80,000-plus of your closest friends will unite for unlimited fun via games, food, performances and more, including this year’s headliner — Durham’s own Delta Rae. “Live it up,” indeed.

Delta Rae in concert at The Ritz in Raleigh, NC Saturday night May 9, 2015. Scott Sharpe ssharpe@newsobserver.com

Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival

The details: Aug. 24, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Aug. 25. 1, 12:30 to 5 p.m. Go to the town’s website for details on shuttles, parking and schedules. townofcary.org

For the 43rd year, over 300 artists (including featured artist JJ Jiang), kid’s activities, a beer garden, food trucks and live music take over Cary’s Town Hall campus on Academy Street for two “lazy daze.”

African American Cultural Festival

The details: Labor Day weekend: Aug. 31, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (art and vendor booths close at dusk), Family Village hours 11:30 am. to 8 p.m.; and Sept. 1, 1 to 10 p.m. (art and vendor booths close at dusk), Family Village hours 1:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. City Plaza, Raleigh. Free. aacfestival.org

Celebrating 10 years, the annual fest fetes African American culture via art, music, food and community when local to global performers, artists and food vendors descend upon downtown Raleigh for two days.

Greek Festival

The details: Sept. 6, 5 to 10 p.m.; Sept. 7, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sept. 8, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jim Graham Building, N.C. State Fairgrounds, Raleigh. Seniors and ages 13 to 18: $2; general admission: $3; children under 13: free. raleighgreekfestival.com

It’s literally about to be all Greek to you at the 2019 fest, the 38th installment of this annual celebration of all things Greek. Think authentic handmade food prepared by the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church Family using recipes handed down for generations, as well as live music and traditional folk dances. And all for some feel-good fun, with a portion of the proceeds being donated to Habitat for Humanity, Homes for Our Troops and Team Rubicon. Opa!

Spark Con
SPARKcon is Sept. 12-15, 2019 in downtown Raleigh. Look for hundreds of artists in film, fashion, music, dance and more. NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO


The details: Sept. 13, 6 to 11 p.m.; Sept. 14, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sept. 15, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Warehouse District, Downtown Raleigh. Free. sparkcon.com

September means SPARKcon, and its “we’re here; we’re weird; it’s awesome” for-the-city/by-the-city approach features more than 2,000 artists across 200-plus events in art, film, fashion, music, dance and more. This year’s festival moves from Fayetteville Street to the Warehouse District, yielding plenty of fab, flavorful, frothy, funky and family-friendly fest-style fun.

City of Oaks Pirate Fest

The details: Sept. 14, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dorothea Dix Park, 2105 Umstead Drive, Raleigh. Free, but registration encouraged. ncmuseumofhistory.org/pirate-fest

Channel your inner Jack Sparrow. Get your pirate garb and swords up as you come aboard for a day of sword fights, sea chanty singing, swashbuckling, costume contests, pirate crafts — plus your chance to meet Capt. Blackbeard and much more.

Capital City Bike Fest

The details: Sept. 20 and 21, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sept. 22, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tobacco Road Harley-Davidson, 1126 S. Saunders St., Raleigh. Weekend admission $10 per person; kids under 12 are free. Admission to the Tattoo Fest is $10 for the weekend. capitalcitybikefest.com

“Embrace your inner rebel” and rumble in Raleigh at the family-friendly bike fest at Tobacco Road Harley-Davidson’s largest charitable event of the year. The rally with a purpose, where all proceeds and donations go to charities, features a bike show and rides, live music, car show and thrills — plus your chance to get inked, or show off your tats in the contest in the seventh annual Tattoo Fest for Charity. See online for categories, from best sleeve to best chest piece. Oh, and the Rumble in Raleigh car show will be judged by David Ankin and will air on his show, “Toymakerz,” on the History Channel.

Centerfest Arts Festival

The details: Sept. 21, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sept. 22, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Downtown Durham. Free. centerfest.durhamarts.org

For 45 years, the Durham Arts Council has brought the Bull City community together with this fam-friendly signature arts fest showcasing juried visual artists, plus all the world-class wares you could fancy. Think ceramics, paintings, jewelry, woodwork, etc., many from local creators. It’s all alongside continuous entertainment by dance troupes, singers, choirs, bands, jugglers, magicians, plus a Creative Kids Zone for the mini-mes. Food vendors will be on-site to fuel the fun.

Bug Fest
BugFest takes over all four floors of the Museum of Natural Sciences so attendees can talk to entomologists, watch their kids try the games at the Arthropod Olympics or eat bugs at Cafe Insecta. Juli Leonard News & Observer file photo


The details: Sept. 21, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Jones Street, Bicentennial Plaza, and Edenton Street, Raleigh. Free. naturalsciences.org/calendar/bugfest/

Choose the bug life and bug out at this year’s free Bugfest as you interact with live entomologists and scientists in between working your way through 100+ buggy exhibits, crafts, games and activities. Not to be missed, the Café Insecta features local chef-prepared buggy dishes for the brave to sample.

Irish Fest in the Forest

The details: Sept. 21, 3 to 10 p.m. on South Taylor Street between Wait and Elm avenues in Wake Forest (behind Town Hall). Free. irishfestintheforest.com

You read the calendar correctly. St. Patrick’s Day, the traditional time to celebrate everything Irish, is months away. But no matter. The Ancient Order of Hibernians is ready to celebrate Irish American culture at this family friendly festival, now in its fourth year in Wake Forest after moving from Raleigh’s Moore Square. There will be plenty of local Irish bands, dancing, Celtic Canines and a Leprechaun Lane kids area. And back by popular demand: the Red Hair and Freckles Contest, a chance for all gingers to get their moment in the spotlight. A charity partner will be announced.

La Fiesta del Pueblo

The details: Sept. 22, noon to 6 p.m. Downtown Raleigh. Free. elpueblo.org/la-fiesta-del-pueblo/

A mainstay in the fall fest scene for over 25 years, La Fiesta del Pueblo celebrates Latino culture at one of the largest Latin American festivals in the Carolinas. The annual event is expected to draw over 20,000 people to City Plaza for a day full of folk music and art, dance performances, educational booths, children’s activities — and, of course, food from different regions of Latin America.

Todrick Hall.jpg
Todrick Hall, the actor, singer, choreographer and YouTube star, will headline the NC Pride at Night Festival and Celebration in Raleigh. Jon Sams

NC Pride at Night Festival and Celebration

The details: Sept. 28, 4 p.m. Intersection of Hargett and Harrington streets, Raleigh. Free. prideforallnc.org

Love wins at this annual Pride Fest, first held June 25, 1988, where over 2,000 participants marched to from NC State’s Memorial Bell Tower to Capitol Square in the inaugural event. Today, the fest continues to honor the past and celebrate the future via its “Come one, love all” themed celebration of love, where proceeds will go to a selected charity. Todrick Hall — the dancer, actor, choreographer and YouTube star — will be the headliner, performing on the main stage. (You may have just seen him in Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” video.)

Asia Fest and Dragon Boat Festival

The details: Sept. 28, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Booth Amphitheatre, Cary. $5 for 13 and older, $4 for 55 and older. asianfocusnc.org or boothamphitheatre.com

The sixth annual dragon boat festival attracts 10,000 visitors to watch colorful 20-man boats race across Symphony Lake at Booth Amphitheatre. More than boats, though, the event also celebrates Asian culture with cultural displays, performances and delicious food. Want to paddle? No experience is necessary. Practice with a coach and equipment will be provided.

Dragon Boat Festival
The Dragon Boat Festival is part of Asia Fest at Booth Amphitheatre in Cary, which celebrates Asian culture. NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

Tacos ‘N Taps Festival

The details: Oct. 5, 1 to 5 p.m.; VIP, noon to 5 p.m. Booth Amphitheatre, Cary. General admission: $30; VIP: $50. tacosntaps.com/cary/show-info

Whether you’re into a balanced diet (a taco and marg in each hand, obv), romance (all I wanna do is eat tacos with you) or self-love (let’s taco-bout how awesome I am), this second annual all-you-can-taste taco, beer and tequila fest is a trip to south of the border in your own backyard. Think tacos, margs, 80-plus beers, mariachi bands and other live music, pinata punching, contests and more. Sombreros optional. Relaxed waistbands strongly encouraged.


The details: Oct. 12, noon to 6 p.m. Sugg Farm Park, Holly Springs. Ages 21 and over, music only: $15; general admission: $45; VIP: $75. beericana.com

Belly up for this can’t-miss music and brew fest bringing more than 70 breweries and bands together for your sipping and listening pleasure to benefit the NC Craft Brewer’s Guild and other nonprofits. Bottoms up.

Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Festival

The details: Oct. 12, noon to 6 p.m. Lafayette Village, Raleigh. General admission: $36.95; VIP single, $59.95; VIP partner pass, $119.95; donations to supported charity welcome. facebook.com/ncwinecheesechocolate

Consider this an afternoon Euro staycation with varietals from Italy, Spain, France… (and the U.S., with even some local NC faves), plus local and regional chocolate and cheese tastings to boot. Demo tents on-site for the curious. Otherwise, sip and browse or listen to live tunes from three bands, two DJs and more.

N.C. State Fair

The details: Oct. 17-27. NC State Fairgrounds, Raleigh. Adults 13-64: $13; military adults 13-64 with valid ID: $8; youths 6-12: $7; seniors 65+ and children 5 and under: free; visit site for group pricing. ncstatefair.org

“Nothing could be finer” in answering all your fried, farmy, freaky fantasies than the N.C. State Fair. This year’s edition promises not to disappoint with 11 days of high-flying rides, weird/traditional/delicious treats, the kids’ Field of Dreams, art, livestock, shows (pig races!), the great pumpkin weigh-off, a Homegrown Music Fest to the tune of 117 concerts (lineup TBD late August) and so much more. New this year is the State Fair Skygazer, which is 155 feet, making what officials say is the tallest traveling Ferris wheel in North America. (Tickets are sold separately from fair admission tickets.)

Triangle Oktoberfest is Oct. 18 and 19 at Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

Triangle Oktoberfest

The details: Oct. 18, 5 to 10 p.m.; and Oct. 19, noon to 9 p.m. Booth Amphitheatre, Cary. Admission $15 for Friday, $20 for Saturday all day, and $15 for Saturday after 4 p.m. TBD, ages 16 and under, free; discounts of $5 for seniors 60 and older and military (with ID). Beer samplers available for $25. triangleoktoberfest.org

Beers, brats, Bavarian food — oh, my! Raise your steins for this stateside “Wisen’,” repping such Munich froth faves as Spatan, Hofbrau, Paulaner, Bitburger, Konig Ludwig and Ayinger to wash down the fab fare. New York-based The Polka Brothers will be on-site to entertain, plus Wiener Dog Races (because, duh), Masskrugstemmen (a stein hoist competition), Hammerschlagen (hammer striking) and Kinder Platz (kid play area). New this year, don’t miss the Miss Oktoberfest Contest and a Beer Tasting Competition. All proceeds benefit the Triangle Oktoberfest Rotary Foundation. Prost!

American Indian Heritage Celebration

The details: Nov. 23, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh. Free. ncmuseumofhistory.org/aihc-2018

The 24th annual celebration brings together storytellers, authors, dancers, musicians and artists from the state’s eight state-recognized tribes for this family-friendly event with games, food, activities and fun. Learn more about our state’s American Indian history and culture — past and present.

Raleigh Christmas Parade

The details: Nov. 23, 9:40 a.m. Begins on Hillsborough Street at St. Mary’s Street, proceeds to the State Capitol, Raleigh. Free. grma.org/christmas-parade

Cheers to 75 years of marching bands, dancers, classic cars, superheroes and much more parading through downtown.

Chinese Lantern Festival

The details: Nov. 22 to Jan. 12, 6 to 10 p.m. (closed Mondays, except Dec. 23 and 30). Booth Amphitheatre, Cary. Any night tickets are $20 each for all ages (except kids 2 & under, who are free and do not need tickets). boothamphitheatre.com

Back by popular demand, this holiday light show takes you on a 45- to 75-minute stroll (about 1/2 mile) through a 15,000-plus LED light display comprising 20 amazing displays. Plus, there are nightly cultural displays. Fingers crossed it’s still the “year of the dragon” — aka, that the 200-foot-long, 21-foot-tall Chinese Dragon weighing in at 18,000 pounds will be back floating on Symphony Lake. Selfie spot, check!

First Night Raleigh
The crowd celebrates at the 2018 First night Raleigh as the city’s giant acorn is lowered for the early “acorn drop” on Fayetteville Street. The celebration in the City of Oaks features two drops of the copper acorn, one at 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, and the other at midnight. Scott Sharpe ssharpe@newsobserver.com

First Night Raleigh

The details: Dec. 31. Fayetteville Street, Raleigh. Advance day passes $11. firstnightraleigh.com

Where better to be when the clock strikes 12 than watching a 1,250-pound nut fall from the sky (er, crane) in downtown Raleigh. Come early for the all-day event offering 100-plus live performances (music, dance, comedy and more) across three dozen venues, plus a 90-foot-tall Ferris wheel, lots of kid-friendly fun and post-midnight fireworks. Happy New Year (and new decade)!

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