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Fairly good ways to see the south.

Creole, Cajun, Cuban, Cracker. the Southland's parties won't stop with the end of summer.

Grand opera and stock-car racing. Outhouse racing and a tour of Greek Revival homes. High-tech hydrofoils and antebellum sternwheelers. Stephen Foster and Elvis Presley.

Cajun and Cuban and Continental cuisines. Shell fairs and state fairs and May fairs. Wild turkey calling and duck calling; hog calling and name calling. Square dancing and round dancing and mountain dancing; figure dancing and clog dancing and buck dancing. Street strutting and chitlin strutting. Grape stomping and barn raising.

All these-and hundreds more-are celebrated, commemorated, congregated, accommodated, venerated, and gleefully anticipated down South in annual festivals.

These days, as the Sunbelt grows wiser and wiser to the finer points of tourism promotion, it seems as if every town wide enough to stop a Greyhound has found some angle to hang a festival on:

Indigenous Flora

If it grows-wild or under cultivation-south of the Mason-Dixon line, it has an appropriate and "nominal" celebration. Strawberries, peaches, pecans, peanuts, pumpkins, grapes, okra, sweet potatoes, apples, roses, marigolds, azaleas, mushrooms, dogwoods, apple blossoms, irises, jonquils, magnolias, cherry blossoms, watermelon, tomatoes, onions, cotton, beans, ramps-all have their day in the, errr, sun.

Southern Fauna

There's a "Turkey Trot Festival" in Yellville, Arkansas, and "Coon Dog Day" in Saluda, North Carolina. There are shrimp festivals on Amelia Island, Florida; Brunswick, Georgia; and Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Horse Breeding

Festivals, shows, races, and rodeos are devoted to horses of every kind, color, and description-cutting and racking; thoroughbreds, Appaloosas, and Tennessee Walkers; fillies and colts; two-year-olds and above.

Fowl, Seafood, etc.

There are festivals celebrating ducks, wild turkey, ibises, storks, oysters, crawfish, catfish, mullet, armadillos, crickets, and alligators. Even the lowly pig is elevated in story and song-both on the hoof and on the barbecue bun.

Black Culture

Much of the history and culture of the South-and hence, the rest of the nation-derives from black culture and the so-called Black Experience. That contribution is duly noted in a host of festivals. For instance, the blues-that peculiarly black art form from which gospel, R&B, and rock'n'-roll all derive-is celebrated with slide guitar, mouth harp, and "doghouse" bass in half a dozen delta cities.

Southern Music

Other forms of music also have their day in the spotli ght-or rather, on the concert stage: bluegrass and country; gospel and spiritual; folk and mountain; and both Dixieland and mainstream jazz. There is even a festival devoted to "strange music." There are festivals that honor the music men Stephen Foster, Jimmie Rodgers, W.C. Handy, and Elvis Presley. And country-rock's favorite group, Alabama, has turned their fund-raising "June Jam" into the newest of Southern musical traditions.

Southern Ethnic Groups

Of course, not to be outdone, other groups have staged festivals of their own with their own music: Native Americans (like the Choctaw and Cherokee), Hispanics, Cajuns, Scots, English, Germans, and Irish-to name a few. (That's the problem with this whole darned undertaking-selecting the few ftom among the very many!)

Anyway, here follows a festive sampler of this summer's homegrown carnivale below the MasonDixon line, plus suggestions extending through the next year. For a complete list of all the festivals, just write the folks at Travel South U.S.A., 3400 Peachtree Rd., N.E., Atlanta, GA 30326, or give them a call at 404-231-1790. Y'all come!


* Florida's resort town, Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, celebrates the origins of the Sunshine State's shrimping industry with three days (5-7) of music, sidewalk art shows, "best" beard contest, a beauty pageant, fireworks, street dances, a pirate landing, and a blessing of the fleet at the historic waterfront docks. (904-261-3248)

* The Lake Charles, Louisiana, Contraband Days (2-14) is a fortnight celebrating the city's "pirate heritage." Festivities begin with the Landing of Jean Lafitte, followed by a parade . . . followed by parties, bands, carnival rides, foodfests, Las Vegas Nite, and boat races "in everything from bathtubs to powerboats." Citizens ftom all over flock to the seawall in boats, anchor, and "celebrate." (318-436-5508)

* Ever had barbecued armadillo? If not, you won't want to miss Hamburg, Arkansas' 15th annual Armadillo Festival (7). There'll also be chicken on the grill, plus a frog jump, arts and crafts, 10K run, concerts, talent show, pet show, beauty contest, a street dance, arm-wrestling and tobaccospitting contests. (501-853-2482)

* Some 40,000 people are expected in Owensboro, Kentucky, the "Barbecue Capital of the World," for the International Barb-B-Q Contest (12-14). Also featured are "tram-cooking" competitions, cook-offs, recipes, and country and bluegrass bands all along the riverfront. (502-926-1860)

* An international hillbilly hollerin' contest is the high point of Harrison, Arkansas' Dogpatch Days & Buffalo National River Festival (13-15). Other events include a trout cook-off, Fearless Fosdick's Fantastic Flotilla, costume and decorating contests, hot-air balloon races, concerts, nature hikes and float trips, arts, crafts, and a parade. (501-741-2659)

* The annual Ole Time Fiddlers' and Bluegrass Festival-a.k.a. the Union Grove Fiddlers Convention (26-29)is a hallowed North Carolina institution. This year's 65th annual event will again feature individual competitions (group, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, etc.), workshops, clog dancing, storytelling, shaped-note singing, and concerts by big-name bluegrass stars. (704-539-4417)


* It's enough to clear up a teenager's acne-the annual Swap Meet & Auto Fair (15-18) in Morrilton, Arkansas. More than 100 antique and classic cars compete for awards in 24 classifications, from turn-of-the-century to 1963 models. Antique cars and auto parts for sale. Arts and crafts. (501-727-5427)

* The 20th annual National Hollerin' Contest (17) in Dunn, North Carolina, "revives the almost lost art of hollerin', which was a means of communication in days gone by." You can also brush up on your callin', whistlin', and conch-shell bIowin'. Arts and crafts, singing, dancing, food, and children's entertainment at Spivey's Corners. (919-892-4133)


* Be sure to bring your camera if you come to Greenville, South Carolina's Freedom Weekend Aloft (June 30July 4), one of America's largest gatherings of hot-air balloons. Magicians, storytellers, puppeteers, rides, and clowns, plus national-recording stars, local and regional bands, skydiving teams, foodfest, fireworks, parades, crafts and, of course, hundreds of colorful hot-air balloons. (803-282-8501)

* Coon Dog Day (8) in Saluda, North Carolina, is a daylong celebration of coon dogs, coon hunting, and of course, the star of the show, the bandit-faced raccoon. Some 8,000 folks flock to this little mountain town of 629 for a parade, a 5K run, a fried-chicken dinner, and the crowning of a coon-dog queen. The high point of the whole shebang is a sanctioned coon-dog treeing contest and bench show. (704-749-9554)

* It's the granddaddy of all the myriad highland games-the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games & Gathering of the Scottish Clans (8-9). Some 120 Scottish clans sponsor two days of bagpiping, dancing, food, and highland athletics. Major Gaelic importers set up a "tartan plaid" clothing bazaar during festival week. (704-733-2013)


* Home of the fiddle great Vassar Clements, Asheville, North Carolina, celebrates its mountain music heritage with the annual Mountain Dance & Folk Festival (3-5). Festival events include Appalachian-style clog and figure dancing, bluegrass bands, ballad singing, and dulcimer playing. (704-258-3916) That same weekend, Springdale, Arkansas, hosts the Albert E. Brun-dey Sundown to Sunup Gospel Sing, featuring some of the top names in American gospel music. (501-751-4694)

* For aficionados of the blues, the W.C. Handy Music Festival (6-12) in Florence, Alabama, features a weeklong festival of music and other events.

-Sam Mills
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Mills, Sam
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:May 1, 1989
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