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); www.jubileecityfest.org or (334) 834-7220
City Stages Birmingham (June); www.citystages.org or (205) 251-1272
W.C. Handy Music Festival Florence (July); www.wchandymusicfestival.org or (256) 766-7642
Big Spring Jam Huntsville (September); www.bigspringjam.org or 1-800-277-1700
Hank Williams Birthday Celebration Montgomery (September); www.xaust.com/hank or (334) 262-3600
BayFest Mobile (October); www.bayfest.com or (251) 208-7835
Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention Athens (October) www.athens.edu/fiddlers or (256) 233-8215


Riverfest Arts and Music Festival Little Rock (May); www.riverfestarkansas.com or (501) 255-3378
Logan County Singing Convention Booneville (August); www.booneville.com/c-eventgospel.htm or (479) 675-3613
Arkansas State Fiddle Championship Mountain View (September); www.ozarkfolkcenter.com/events-calendar or (870) 269-3851
Eureka Springs Jazz Festival Eureka Springs (September); www.eurekajazz.com or (479) 253-6258
Fall Bluegrass & Gospel Music Show Pocahontas (September); www.randolphchamber.com/tourism/festivals.html or (870) 248-0186
Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival Helena (October); www.bluesandheritage.com


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


Jacksonville Jazz Festival Jacksonville (April); www.jaxjazzfest.com or (904) 630-3690
Sarasota Music Festival (June); www.fwcs.org or (941) 953-3434
Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival, Niceville (October); www.mulletfestival.com, (850) 729-4008
Fall Suwannee River Jubilee Live Oak (October); www.stewartvarnado.com/suwannee.html or (386) 364-1683 or (850) 477-6391
Les DeMerle Amelia Island Jazz Festival Fernandina Beach (October); www.ameliaislandjazzfestival.com or (904) 261-3248


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


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


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


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


Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival Meridian (May); www.jimmierodgers.com
Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival Tupelo (May-June); www.tupeloelvisfestival.com or 1-888-273-7798
Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival Clarksdale (August); www.sunflowerfest.org or (662) 627-5301
Delta Blues and Heritage Festival Greenville (September); www.deltablues.org or 1-888-812-5837
Howlin' Wolf Memorial Blues Festival West Point (September); http://www.wpnet.org/wolf_festival.htm or (662) 494-2921


Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival Sedalia (May-June); www.scottjoplin.org or 1-866-218-6258
Saint Louis Jazz & Heritage Festival, Clayton (June); www.saintlouisjazzfest.com or (314) 863-0278
Big Muddy Blues Festival St. Louis (September); www.bigmuddyblues.com 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); www.bransonsilverdollarcity.com or 1-800-831-4386


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


American Heritage Music Festival Grove (June); www.grandlakefestivals.com
OK Mozart International Festival Bartlesville (June); www.okmozart.com or (918) 336-9800
Woody Guthrie Folk Festival Okemah (July); www.woodyguthrie.com or (918) 623-2440
Dusk til Dawn Blues Festival Rentiesville (August-September); www.dcminnerblues.com or (918) 473-2411
Arts Festival Oklahoma Oklahoma City (September); www.occc.edu/afo or (405) 682-7576
Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival Guthrie (September); www.oibf.com or 1-877-203-1206


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


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


South by Southwest Conferences and Festival Austin (March); www.sxsw.com or (512) 467-7979
Denton Arts & Jazz Festival Denton (April); www.dentonjazzfest.com or (940) 565-0931
Wildflower! Arts and Music Festival Richardson (May); www.wildflowerfestival.com or (972) 744-4580
Houston International Jazz Festival Houston (August); www.jazzeducation.org 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); www.aclfestival.com
Jazz By The Boulevard Fort Worth (September); www.fortworthjazz.com or (817) 763-5299
Gene Autry Music Festival Parker (October); www.geneautryfestival.info or (940) 437-1110
Texas Jazz Festival Corpus Christi (October); www.texasjazz-fest.org or (361) 688-1296
Austin Celtic Festival (November); www.austincelts.org/festival
Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza San Antonio (November-December); www.mariachimusic.com or (210) 225-3353


Virginia Arts Festival Hampton Roads area (April-June); www.virginiaartsfest.com or 1-877-741-2787
Hampden-Sydney Music Festival Hampden-Sydney (May-June); www.hsc.edu/musicfestival or (434) 223-6273
Floydfest Floyd (July); www.floydfest.com or (540) 745-3378
Norfolk Latino Festival Norfolk (July); (757) 441-2345
Old Fiddler's Convention Galax (August); www.oldfiddlersconvention.com or (276) 236-8541
Blues at the Beach Virginia Beach (September); www.beacheventsfun.com or (757) 491-7866
International Festival Harrisonburg (September); www.harrisonburg-international-festival.org
National Folk Festival Richmond (October); www.nationalfolkfestival.com or (804) 788-6466


Smithsonian Folklife Festival (June-July); www.folklife.si.edu/center/festival or (202) 633-1000


Gardner Winter Music Festival Morgantown (February); www.gwmf.org
Spring Dulcimer Week Elkins (April); www.augustaheritage.com/sdw.html or (304) 637-1209
Vandalia Gathering Charleston (May); www.wvculture.org/vandalia or (304) 558-0220
Music in the Mountains Bluegrass Festival Summersville (June); www.summersville.org or (304) 872-3145
West Virginia State Folk Festival Glenville (June); www.wvfolkfestival.org or (304) 462-5000
Appalachian String Band Music Festival Various (August); www.wvculture.org/stringband
Multifest Charleston (August); www.charlestonwv.com or (304) 347-7663


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