Soul of the South: Savannah's Fabulous Festivals 

Like many Southern cities, Savannah hosts a variety of musical events. Spring brings the annual Savannah Music Festival.
James T. Black

The American Traditions Competition at the Savannah Music Festival showcases vocalists.

It didn't take Hank Weisman long to find his kind of folks after moving to Savannah. "I went to my first Savannah Folk Music Festival a couple of months after coming here," he says. "I've been into folk music ever since I started playing guitar at age 6. So I was glad that so many local people enjoyed it too." Now as president of the Savannah Folk Music Society, Hank heads up the free festival that fills the Georgia city with family-friendly music every October.

Last year's musical free-for-all featured concerts at Savannah's City Market and inside the renovated Roundhouse Railroad Museum. Georgia Southern University professor Jean-Paul Carton and his wife, Dominique, performed traditional French folk songs at the City Market, while bluegrass notables Norman and Nancy Blake, bluesman Guy Davis, and singer-songwriter Tracy Grammer entertained Roundhouse audiences.

Andrew Terrett, a college student, joined the veterans on the Roundhouse stage as winner of the festival's Youth Songwriting Competition. "One of the society's missions is to continue the folk music tradition, and the competition helps introduce it to a whole new generation," Hank says.

A World of Music
Every March another local musical event introduces audiences to sounds from around the world. The Savannah Music Festival helps kick off the city's famous St. Patrick's Day celebration by presenting performers who span the musical globe.

"We produce nearly 100 performances in 18 days, " says Rob Gibson, the festival's artistic director. "This year we had musicians from Jamaica, Spain, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Ireland, as well as the local debut of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra led by Wynton Marsalis."

In addition to offering dozens of musicians, singers, and dancers, the festivals also feature workshops and lectures. "We present free programs to more than 20,000 area schoolchildren," Rob adds. "That's important, because we want the festival to give Savannah residents the chance to hear music and meet people from all over the world."

Jubilee City Fest Montgomery (April-May); or (334) 834-7220
City Stages Birmingham (June); or (205) 251-1272
W.C. Handy Music Festival Florence (July); or (256) 766-7642
Big Spring Jam Huntsville (September); or 1-800-277-1700
Hank Williams Birthday Celebration Montgomery (September); or (334) 262-3600
BayFest Mobile (October); or (251) 208-7835
Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention Athens (October) or (256) 233-8215

Riverfest Arts and Music Festival Little Rock (May); or (501) 255-3378
Logan County Singing Convention Booneville (August); or (479) 675-3613
Arkansas State Fiddle Championship Mountain View (September); or (870) 269-3851
Eureka Springs Jazz Festival Eureka Springs (September); or (479) 253-6258
Fall Bluegrass & Gospel Music Show Pocahontas (September); or (870) 248-0186
Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival Helena (October);

Delaware Music Festival Dewey Beach (April); or (302) 227-3888, ext. 134
DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival Wilmington (June); or (302) 576-2100
Riverfront Blues Festival Wilmington (August); or (302) 576-2100
Dewey Beach Music Conference Dewey Beach (September); or (302) 227-3888, ext. 134
Delmarva Folk Festival Hartly (October); or 1-877-335-3655

Jacksonville Jazz Festival Jacksonville (April); or (904) 630-3690
Sarasota Music Festival (June); or (941) 953-3434
Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival, Niceville (October);, (850) 729-4008
Fall Suwannee River Jubilee Live Oak (October); or (386) 364-1683 or (850) 477-6391
Les DeMerle Amelia Island Jazz Festival Fernandina Beach (October); or (904) 261-3248

Savannah Music Festival Savannah (March-April); or (912) 234-3378
Atlanta Jazz Festival (May); or (404) 853-4234
Lewis Family Homecoming and Bluegrass Festival Lincolnton (May); or (706) 359-3458
Twin Oaks Bluegrass Convention Hoboken (May and September); or (912) 458-2365
AthFest Athens (June); or (706) 548-1973
Georgia Sea Islands Festival St. Simons Island (June); (912) 638-8549
Bragg Jam Macon (July); or (478) 320-7861
La Fiesta del Pueblo Tifton (September); or (229) 386-7069
Macon Music and Heritage Festival Macon (September); (478) 751-7649
Savannah Folk Music Festival Savannah (October); or (912) 786-6953

Gospel Music Festival Stanford (May); (606) 365-4518
Festival of the Bluegrass Lexington (June); or (859) 846-4995
Great American Brass Band Festival Danville (June); or 1-800-755-0076
Kentucky Shaker Music Day Harrodsburg (July); or 1-800-734-5611
Hot August Blues Festival Aurora (August) or 1-800-325-0143
Fiddler's Festival Renfro Valley (August-September); or 1-800-765-7464
Jerusalem Ridge Festival Rosine (September); or (270) 274-9181
Poppy Mountain BlueGrass Festival Morehead (September); or (606) 784-2277
Rock the Water Tower Louisville (September); or (502) 583-0333
Celebration of Traditional Music Berea (October); or (859) 985-3140

Festival International de Louisiane Lafayette (April); or (337) 232-8086
Natchitoches Jazz/R&B Festival (April); or 1-1-800-259-1714
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival New Orleans (April-May); or (504) 410-4100
Lebeau Zydeco Festival Lebeau (July); (337)-623-4362
Satchmo SummerFest New Orleans (August); or (504) 522-5730,
Cajun Music Festival Mamou (September); or (337) 468-3272
Cane River Zydeco Festival Natchitoches (September); or 1-800-259-1714
Lafayette Reggae & Culture Festival Carencro (September);
Red River Revel Arts Festival Shreveport (September-October); or (318) 424-4000
Festival Acadiens Lafayette (October); or 1-800-346-1958

Arcadia Bluegrass Festival Upperco (April and September); or (410) 374-2895
Capital Jazz Fest Columbia (May-June);
Artscape's Billie Holiday Vocal Competition Baltimore (July); or (410) 752-8632
Common Ground on the Hill Roots Music and Arts Festival Westminster (July); or (410) 857-2771
Reggae Wine Festival, Mount Airy (July); or (410) 795-6432
Caroline Summerfest Denton (August); or 1-888-786-3378
Hot August Blues Festival Cockeysville (August); or 1-877-321-3378
Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival Crownsville (August); or (410) 349-0338
Fell's Point Fun Festival Baltimore (October); or (410) 675-6756
In the Street Frederick (October); or (301) 228-2844
Baltimore Irish Festival (November);

Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival Meridian (May);
Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival Tupelo (May-June); or 1-888-273-7798
Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival Clarksdale (August); or (662) 627-5301
Delta Blues and Heritage Festival Greenville (September); or 1-888-812-5837
Howlin' Wolf Memorial Blues Festival West Point (September); or (662) 494-2921

Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival Sedalia (May-June); or 1-866-218-6258
Saint Louis Jazz & Heritage Festival, Clayton (June); or (314) 863-0278
Big Muddy Blues Festival St. Louis (September); or (314) 241-5875
Capital Jazz Festival Jefferson City (September); (573) 681-5301 or (573) 635-2525
Silver Dollar City's Festival of American Music & Crafts Branson (September-October); or 1-800-831-4386

MerleFest Wilkesboro (April); or (336) 838-6260
Singing on the Mountain Linville (June); or 1-800-468-7325
Brevard Music Center Summer Institute & Festival (June through early August); or 1-888-384-8682
Eastern Music Festival Greensboro (June-July); or 1-877-833-6753
Cherokee Bluegrass Festival Cherokee (August); or (706) 864-7203
Mountain Dance and Folk Festival Asheville (August); or (828) 258-6101, ext. 345
Bull Durham Blues Festival Durham (September); or (919) 683-1709
Flat Rock Music Festival Flat Rock (September); or (828) 692-2005
Lake Eden Arts Festival Black Mountain (October); or (828) 686-8742
MUMfest New Bern (October); or (252) 638-5781

American Heritage Music Festival Grove (June);
OK Mozart International Festival Bartlesville (June); or (918) 336-9800
Woody Guthrie Folk Festival Okemah (July); or (918) 623-2440
Dusk til Dawn Blues Festival Rentiesville (August-September); or (918) 473-2411
Arts Festival Oklahoma Oklahoma City (September); or (405) 682-7576
Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival Guthrie (September); or 1-877-203-1206

Lowcountry Blues Bash Charleston (February); or (843) 762-9125
Spoleto Festival U.S.A. Charleston (May-June); or (843) 579-3100
MOJA Arts Festival Charleston (September-October); or (843) 724-7305
Columbia Blues Festival (October);
Jazz! Carolina Hartsville (October); (843) 332-1600
Pawleys Island Festival of Music & Art (October);
St. Francis Fall for Greenville Greenville (October); or (864) 467-5780

Nashville Folk Festival, Hendersonville (April); or (615) 824-0502
Memphis in May International Festival (May); or (901) 525-4611
CMA Music Festival Nashville (June); or 1-800-262-3378
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival Manchester (June);
Riverbend Festival Chattanooga (June); or (423) 756-2211
Smithville Fiddlers' Jamboree and Crafts Festival Smithville (July); or (615) 597-8500
International Rock-A-Billy Festival Jackson (August);
Bristol's Rhythm and Roots Reunion Bristol (September) or (423) 573-4898
Clarksville Riverfest (September); or (931) 645-7476

South by Southwest Conferences and Festival Austin (March); or (512) 467-7979
Denton Arts & Jazz Festival Denton (April); or (940) 565-0931
Wildflower! Arts and Music Festival Richardson (May); or (972) 744-4580
Houston International Jazz Festival Houston (August); or (713) 839-7000
South Padre Island Jazz and Latin Music Festival (August-September); 1-888-335-3890
Austin City Limits Music Festival Austin (September);
Jazz By The Boulevard Fort Worth (September); or (817) 763-5299
Gene Autry Music Festival Parker (October); or (940) 437-1110
Texas Jazz Festival Corpus Christi (October); or (361) 688-1296
Austin Celtic Festival (November);
Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza San Antonio (November-December); or (210) 225-3353

Virginia Arts Festival Hampton Roads area (April-June); or 1-877-741-2787
Hampden-Sydney Music Festival Hampden-Sydney (May-June); or (434) 223-6273
Floydfest Floyd (July); or (540) 745-3378
Norfolk Latino Festival Norfolk (July); (757) 441-2345
Old Fiddler's Convention Galax (August); or (276) 236-8541
Blues at the Beach Virginia Beach (September); or (757) 491-7866
International Festival Harrisonburg (September);
National Folk Festival Richmond (October); or (804) 788-6466

Smithsonian Folklife Festival (June-July); or (202) 633-1000

Gardner Winter Music Festival Morgantown (February);
Spring Dulcimer Week Elkins (April); or (304) 637-1209
Vandalia Gathering Charleston (May); or (304) 558-0220
Music in the Mountains Bluegrass Festival Summersville (June); or (304) 872-3145
West Virginia State Folk Festival Glenville (June); or (304) 462-5000
Appalachian String Band Music Festival Various (August);
Multifest Charleston (August); or (304) 347-7663

"Soul of the South" is from the April 2007 issue of Southern Living.