Festivals, Fairs and Concerts
Here are some of the annual festivals, fairs, and music concerts in and around Asheville. It is far from a complete listing, as there is a festival going on every weekend somewhere in Western North Carolina. Many of the events have free admission. Especially notable festivals are listed in RED. Note that prices listed here may change and do no include sales tax. Bele Chere, once billed as the largest free street festival in the South, exists no more. City officials and local business owners felt the costs were too high and that the crowds discouraged shopping Downtown.
Asheville Art in the Park (www.ashevilleartinthepark.com) has booths featuring handcrafted art including glass, ceramics, wood, jewelry and metal. It takes place on three consecutive Saturdays in mid- to late June and also three consecutive Saturdays in early to mid-October in Pack Square Park. Free.
Asheville Fringe Arts Festival (www.ashevillefringe.org) in mid-January at several venues in downtown Asheville including bars and small theater spaces, focuses on unusual and alternative expressions of dance, performing arts, puppetry and music. Productions have various admission prices, or you can buy a pass for the entire festival for $65.
Asheville Herb Festival (www.ashevilleherbfestival.com), a three-day sale held the first weekend in May at the WNC Farmers Market, attracts more than 50 herb growers, many organic, and makers of herbal products. It claims to be the largest herb festival in the U.S. and Canada. Free.
Asheville Yoga Festival (www.ashevilleyogafestival.com), also called the LoveShinePlay Festival, is held over four days in late July at Pack Square Park in Downtown Asheville. It features more than 30 presenters and more than 70 yoga and other activities. Various admission prices. A pass to all events is $250 to $350.
Big Crafty (www.thebigcrafty.com) is a twice-yearly bazaar and sale for inde-pendent craftspeople, with music and beer, usually held in early July at Pack Square Park and early December in the Civic Center, both in Downtown Asheville. The two-day event in December (admission $5 adults) has more than 170 vendors.
Brevard Music Festival (www.brevardmusic.org) is a nationally known classical music festival held at the Brevard Music Center in Brevard from mid-June to early August. The Brevard Music Center Orchestra and guest musicians present symphony concerts, chamber music and operas. Some events free, others various admission costs.
Brewgrass Festival (www.brewgrassfestival.com) has reinvented itself, from a 4,000-attendee beer-sampling event to a music festival. It is now held at Salvage Station (468 Riverside Dr., North Asheville), an event space with a capacity of around 2,500, in early October. No longer is there beer sampling, although about 100 different craft beers are available for sale. Admission is $35.
Chow Chow Festival in mid-September in Pack Place Park and other venues around town seems ill-conceived, elitist and grossly overpriced (in 2019 a three-hour event was priced at $125 per person).
Concerts on the Quad (www.unca.edu) held at UNC-A, are free concerts of various types of music on several Mondays in June and July at 7 pm. Bring lawn chairs or blankets and picnics. Food and drink vendors also are on hand. Open parking available on campus. Free.
The twice-yearly Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands (www.southernhighlandhandicraftguild,org) fills the Civic Center with some 200 of the South’s most talented craftspeople, members of the Southern Highland Crafts Guild. It has been held twice yearly, in mid-July and mid-October, since 1948. Admission $8 adults.
Dirty Dancing Festival (www.dirtdancingfestival.com) is for fans of the 1987 cult movie Dirty Dancing, which was filmed at Lake Lure, the site of a two-day weekend festival in mid-September, sponsored by The Chamber of Hickory Nut Gorge. It’s held in Morse Park in Lake Lure. Tickets are $5 to $25.
Downtown After Five (www.ashevilledowntown.org), 5-9 pm the third Friday of the month from May to September at the foot of North Lexington Avenue near the I-240 Overpass in downtown Asheville, Downtown After Five draws a big crowd for free local music. Food and beverages available.
Downtown Asheville Art District Art Walks (www.ashevilledowntowngalleries.org) are held from 5 to 8 pm the first Friday of the month from April through December. You can visit more than two dozen Downtown galleries within a half-mile radius. Get a Downtown Art Gallery map at galleries, Asheville Visitor Center or online from the website.
Drumming Circle (www.ashevilledowntown.org), every Friday night from roughly 7-10 pm April-October (weather permitting) at Prichard Park downtown on Patton Avenue, is an authentic Asheville experience, with drumming and dancing. Bring a drum, tambourine or cowbell and join in. Dreadlocks not required.
Festival of Flowers at Biltmore Estate (www.biltmore.com), late March to mid-May, showcases tulips, azaleas and other flowers in the Biltmore Estate formal gardens and on the grounds. Regular admission rates apply.
Fly Fishing Festival (www.greatsmokies.com) celebrates the sport of fly fishing in the Smokies and elsewhere in the NC mountains. It is held on a Saturday in early No-vember in Bryson City. Hosted by Tuckasegee Fly Shop, there are usually more than 20 vendors showing the latest in rods and other fly fishing gear. Free.
Folkmoot USA (www.folkmootusa.org) brings dance and folk music groups from several countries to downtown Waynesville. It is held during the last two weeks of July. Various admission fees.
WNC Garlic Fest (www.wncgarlicfest.com), sponsored by So True Seed and the non-profit Utopian Seed Project, is usually held the first Saturday in October. It dis-plays different varieties of garlic from various local farms. The venue is the So True Seed store at 243 Haywood Street, Downtown Asheville. Free.
Goombay Festival, held in early to mid-September, is the YMI Cultural Center's annual celebration of African and Caribbean culture. The weekend festival in at Pack Place Park in Downtown Asheville. Free.
Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering of the Clans (www.gmhg.org) held over four days annually in mid-July over four days on Grandfa-ther Mountain has the mission of fostering interest in traditional Scottish Highlands dancing, piping, fiddling, drumming, athletic achievement, sheep herding, music and Gaelic culture. The 2020 Games are the 65th. Tickets for all four days are $75 per adult, $30 for children; day rates for adults vary, from around $15 to $35. Four-day advance tickets include shuttle rides from Boone or Linville to MacRae Meadow, the site of most of the events. Otherwise, shuttles are $10.
Greek Festival (www.holytrinityasheville.com), on the grounds of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church on Cumberland Avenue in the Montford section, usually last weekend in September, celebrates Greek culture, music and food.
HardLox (www.hardloxjewishfestival.org), a one-day festival held on a Sunday in mid-October in Pack Square Park in Downtown Asheville, focuses on Jewish culture and food.
Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) (www.theleaf.com), which happens twice a year on a weekend in mid-May and mid-October, on 600 acres at the former site of Black Mountain College near Black Mountain, features more than 50 musicians and musical groups, plus arts, crafts and poetry. LEAF is a nonprofit whose proceeds support cultural arts education. The festivals each attract some 12,000 people and usually sell out, and you must buy tickets in advance. Single-day adult passes are in the $60-$70 range and weekend adult passes are near $200. In the Woodstock tradition, many at-tendees camp on the grounds (available option only with weekend passes).
Montford Park Players Shakespeare Festival (www.montfordparkplayers.org) has been producing the Bard’s dramas in Montford Park in North Asheville for more than 40 summers. The Players usually do six or seven plays from April to September. Bring a picnic. Admission is free but a $10 donation is requested.
Mountain Dance and Folk Festival (www.folkheritage.org) is the longest-running folk festival in America, having begun in 1928. The three-day event featuring Appalachian ballad singers, string bands and square dance teams is held “along about sundown” (or 7 pm) the first weekend in August. Currently the venue is Lipinsky Hall at UNC-A.
Mountain Sports Festival (www.mountainsportsfestival.com), going on for almost 20 years, combines sports and music. Usually held on Memorial Day weekend in late May, this family-oriented event has martial arts, disk golf, motocross, triathlon, kayaking, bike racing and 5K run. Free.
National Gingerbread House Competition. The amazing gingerbread houses are on public view at the Omni Grove Park Inn Wednesday through Sundays from Thanksgiving to early January, except Christmas week. Free, but parking charges may apply.
North Carolina Arboretum Festivals (www.ncarboreturm.org) over the year has a weekend show on orchids in late March. The state arboretum has a bonsai expo (mid-October) and other exhibits during the year. Most shows have free admission, but Arboretum parking fees of $14 per car apply. In November and December the Arboretum has a Winter Lights Festival, with some 500,000 holiday lights -- admission is around $18 for adults, $12 for children, plus tax and fees that brings the adult ticket to near $22.
NC Mountain State Fair (www.mountainfair.org) runs for 10 days in early September at the WNC Agricultural Center at 1301 Fanning Bridge Road in Fletcher off I-26 near the Asheville Regional Airport. It has the usual midway rides and bad carnival food, but the livestock shows, antique tractor displays and competitions for flower arranging, canned foods, baked goods, crafts and local art and photography are the real fun. Admission $10 adults, $6 for seniors and youth 6-12.
North Carolina Apple Festival (www.ncapplefestival.org) celebrates Henderson County’s position as the leading apple producer in the state. Held for more than 60 years on Labor Day weekend in early September, the Apple Festival occupies most of Main Street in downtown Hendersonville, with music, craft booths, freshly picked apples, and cooked products like cider and apple pies. No pets allowed. Free.
Organicfest (www.organicfest.org) on a Saturday in late August in Pack Square Park celebrates everything organic, with gardening workshops, organic living demos, music and food (organically grown, of course). Free.
Ramp Festival celebrates the odiferous mountain wild onion, with food, live blue-grass and mountain music and clog dancing. It is one of the oldest festivals in Western North Carolina, having gone on for more than 80 years. Usually it is held the first Sunday in May at American Legion Field, 171 Legion Drive, near downtown Waynesville.
River Arts District Studio Stroll (www.riverartsdistrict.com), the largest studio tour in the region, is held the second weekend in November when some 300 artists and craftspeople at dozens of studios and galleries in Asheville’s River Arts District demonstrate and sell their work. Free.
RiverMusic & Riverfest (www.riverlink.org) celebrates the revitalization of the French Broad River with local music, river rafting, an “anything-that-floats” parade on the river and activities for kids. The festival is held in July at New Belgium Brewing at 21 Craven Street in West Asheville. See RiverLink website for dates and times. Free.
Shindig on the Green (www.folkheritage.org) brings traditional mountain music and dancing to Roger McGuire Green at Pack Square Park in most Saturdays in June, July and August. The free fun starts at 7 pm, weather permitting. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and stake out your place on the green. Free. No pets.
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest (www.sierranevada.com/oktoberfestnc) takes place on a Saturday in mid-October at the Sierra Nevada craft brewery site in Mills River near the Asheville Regional Airport. The admission ticket (about $32) includes a beer stein, live music, German-inspired meal, first beer or soft pretzel and free shuttles from Ashe-ville and Hendersonville. Often sold out well in advance.
Village Art & Craft Fair (www.biltmorevillage.com) features more than 100 art-ists in ceramics, fiber, wood, metal, jewelry, and other media. The fair is held the first weekend in August on the grounds of Cathedral of All Souls in Biltmore Village. Free.
White Squirrel Festival (www.whitesquirrelfestival.com), held Memorial Day weekend in Brevard, celebrates the town’s population of white squirrels. It has live mu-sic and a soapbox derby. Free.
Woolly Worm Festival (www.woollyworm.com) celebrates the art of predicting winter weather by the stripes on woolly worms. It is held the third weekend in October in the town of Banner Elk. Adult admission $7 one day, $13 two days.
All content copyright © Lan Sluder except selected photographs used by permission and brief quotations or other fair use text, which are owned by the copyright holder.
We have made every effort to confirm the accuracy of information on this website, and in the Amazing Asheville book and ebooks, but travel information is subject to frequent change, and no warranty is made, express or implied. Please notify us of any errors or omissions, and we will attempt to correct them as soon as possible. All opinions expressed are those of the author, Lan Sluder, unless otherwise noted.