The South's Best Food Festivals You Need To Attend

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Food Festival

Some folks are music festival people, camping out to see their favorite artist at Bonnaroo, or braving Atlanta traffic to go to Music Midtown. Others of us travel mostly for food. Each year, from Texas to Florida, the South hosts countless food festivals. Some are dedicated to one specific food, like Beignet Fest in New Orleans, and others bring celebrity chefs from across the nation to the South to celebrate all things food and culture, like the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Whether you want something small or you want to explore an entire city through its food scene, there's a festival for all food lovers. Here, are a few of our favorites.

1. Euphoria

Greenville may be small, but its food scene is mighty. From James Beard semifinalists like The Anchorage to classic Southern fare at Soby's, the city is ripe with restaurants, and Euphoria, the local food festival, helps you discover everything Greenville has to offer. Local restaurants offer ticketed dinner experiences, and at Feast by the Field, the signature festival event, chefs, breweries, winemakers, and regional distillers offer samples and demos set to live music. Chefs from outside the city also participate in dinners and demos, and in years past that has included Daniel Boulud and Kevin Belton.

When: The third weekend of September each year

Where: Greenville, South Carolina

2. Beignet Fest

Café du Monde is a must-stop on any NOLA trip, but if it's your favorite part of the visit, then this might be the food festival for you. Hosted at the New Orleans City Park Festival Grounds, the event benefits local nonprofit organizations that provide accessible, quality programs for children with developmental delays. The festival features plenty of pillowy beignets showered in powdered sugar, but beyond the original recipe, local vendors offer their own twists, including savory versions. In years past that has included crawfish beignets, and even burger beignets.

When: Held in September each year

Where: New Orleans, Louisiana

3. South Beach Wine and Food Festival

Calling all Food Network fans! This four-day food festival is filled with many familiar faces from your favorite cooking shows. Aside from celebrities, there are dinners hosted by from some of the best chefs in the nation, cooking master classes, and themed late night parties with drinks and bites. Come see favorites like Giada De Laurentiis and discover emerging talent from the country's best chefs and restaurants.

When: Held in February each year

Where: Miami, Florida

4. Memphis in May

This month-long festival celebrates music, food, community, and culture. For foodies, the big draw is the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, a four-day barbecue cooking competition. Outside of the competition there's live entertainment, cooking classes, food vendors, and beer gardens for everyone to enjoy. VIP tickets to the contest include perks like meeting competition teams, cooking demos, and a judging class with a certified Memphis in May judge.

When: Held annually every May

Where: Memphis, Tennessee

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide To Memphis In May

5. Southern Smoke Festival

This is another star-studded festival. Hosted by and benefiting the Southern Smoke Foundation, the proceeds of this event supports the food and beverage industry nationwide through the foundation's various initiatives including its Emergency Relief Fund. The fund has been used to help the hospitality industry during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and during the pandemic. Helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd, the festival features bites from renowned pitmasters, like Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue, and hosts events featuring TV personalities like Tom Colicchio from Top Chef.

When: Held annually every fall

Where: Houston, Texas

6. Chow Chow Food and Culture Festival

Created by James Beard Award–winning chefs Katie Button, Meherwan Irani, and John Fleer alongside East Fork’s co-founder Connie Matisse, this three-day food festival is a great introduction to the lauded food scene of Asheville. The event is named for the Southern relish because it's meant to celebrate and engage people in discussions on Southern Appalachian foodways, and gather the community to "chow" down together. The festival is comprised of various dinners by local chefs, workshops, performances, tastings, talks, and demonstrations.

When:  Held annually in September

Where: Asheville, North Carolina

7. BayHaven Food and Wine Festival

Founded by Gregory and Subrina Collier, this newcomer to the food festival scene is centered on Black culinary talent. The multi-day event host chefs from around the country for cooking and cocktail demos, tasting tents, and ticketed dinners celebrating Black foodways. In the past that has included a food truck rally, offering tastings from various trucks, and a 'Friends of James Beard' dinner, featuring celebrated chefs from across the South, like James Beard Award-winner Ricky Moore from Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham, North Carolina.

When: Held annually every fall

Where: Charlotte, North Carolina

8. Charleston Wine + Food Festival

Founded in 2005, this food festival helped put Charleston on the map as a culinary destination. The festival highlights local talent and chefs from the greater South. In the past that has included chefs like John Lewis of Lewis Barbecue, Cheetie Kumar of Garland in Raleigh, North Carolina, and many other chefs from all over the country. Aside from tastings, the event offers workshops, and dinners at Charleston cornerstones like Sean Brock's Husk.

When: Held annually every March

Where: Charleston, South Carolina

9. Kentucky Bourbon Festival  

Whether you're new to drinking bourbon, or an aficionado looking to connect with your favorite distiller, this is the festival for you. All tickets get you access to samples from all participating distillers and educational sessions. Over 50 Kentucky distilleries attend the festival, including Four Roses, Woodford Reserve, and Heaven Hill. On top of all the bourbon is live entertainment and food trucks with tasty bites well-suited to bourbon sipping.

When: Held annually every September

Where: Bardstown, Kentucky

10. National Cornbread Festival

South Pittsburg, Tennessee is home to Lodge, the famed cast iron brand, so naturally a food festival centered around a classic cast-iron skillet recipe was bound to crop up. The multi-faceted festival gathers cooks to participate in the Lodge National Cornbread Cook-off (for a chance to win a cash prize), and allows cast iron enthusiasts to tour the Lodge Cast Iron Foundry to see how the famous skillets are made. During the festival you can take a stroll down 'Cornbread Alley' to sample different twists on cornbread, and enjoy other bites from a wide variety of food vendors.

When: Every year during the last full weekend in April

Where:  South Pittsburg, Tennessee

11. Georgia Peach Festival 

We don't want to start a peach war, but the ones coming out of Georgia are some the South's best. The week-long festival dedicated to the fruit splits events between two prominent peach cities, Byron and Fort Valley (both located in Peach County, of course.) Aside from juicy peaches, there's an array of food vendors, live entertainment, and the world’s largest peach cobbler, which measures 11x5 feet, in case you were wondering.

When: Held every June.

Where:  Fort Valley and Byron, Georgia

12. Cheerwine Festival 

This festival centers on the iconic 106-year-old cherry soda, and its hometown of Salisbury, North Carolina. Cheerwine, if you aren't familiar, is a Southern cherry-flavored soda and this event offers Cheerwine-inspired bites as well as beer gardens complete with Cheerwine specials. The family-friendly event includes activities for the kids like face painting and rock climbing, local craft vendors, and live music from both local musicians and national bands. (Past performers have included the Spin Doctors and Smash Mouth.)

When: Held annually in May

Where: Salisbury, North Carolina

13. Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival

Hosted at Atlanta's hip Westside Provisions District, this food festival celebrates what some say is Georgia's juiciest fruit: The tomato. The festival features tomato tastings and bites by an all-star culinary lineup like Steven Satterfield, of Miller Union, and Chef Will Cantrell, from Athen's famed Five & Ten. Bites from past events included oysters with pickled sungolds, and a tomato funnel cake with basil powdered sugar. Programming includes live music and an auction filled with deluxe prizes, such as a 'Superfan Package' comprised of an in-home dinner by chef Ford Fry, a tomato-red pottery set from East Fork, and festival memorabilia.

When: Held annually in July

Where: Atlanta, Georgia

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