Our small towns know how to celebrate.  

King Cake
Photo: Greg DuPree; Prop styling: Claire Spollen; Food styling: Chelsea Zimmer

The South’s small towns are filled with fun traditions. These annual events and longtime celebrations bring the whole community together throughout the year and invite visitors to join in on the festivities. We wish we lived in these small towns so that we could join the celebrations every year. Read on to learn about a few of our favorite Southern small town traditions, and let us know what some of your favorite small town traditions are and where they can be found in your area.

Fourth of July in Brevard, North Carolina

The Fourth of July is a real to-do in Brevard, North Carolina, which turns its charming downtown into celebration central each Independence Day. A parade, classic auto show, fun run, street fair, and market invites visitors from all over to join in on the fun. The auto show is run by the Transylvania County Cruisers Club and is in its 25th year, while the Transylvania Community Arts Council’s Fine Arts and Crafts Showcase has been happening for nearly 50 years. Nearby, the Brevard Music Center hosts a patriotic pops concert to end the festivities with a bang.

Kentucky Bourbon Trail in Paris, Kentucky

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail leads visitors across the state—through small towns and cities, to distilleries and tasting rooms—exploring the landscape where bourbon is a deep-rooted tradition. Small town Paris, Kentucky, is home to a stop on the trail: Hartfield & Co, a distillery in operation since 1919 (the first and only one in Bourbon County) that's known for using locally sourced ingredients.

King Cakes in Picayune, Mississippi

Mardi Gras season means different things to different people, but there’s one thing we can all agree on, and that’s king cakes. This small town in Mississippi is renowned for their Mardi Gras desserts, particularly the king cakes from Paul’s Pastry Shop. Paul’s has been putting their own spin on king cakes since the 1970s, and the whole town still lines up around the block when it’s time for a taste.

Decorating for The Festival of Lessons and Carols in Sewanee, TN
Van Chaplin and Mark Sandlin

Lessons and Carols in Sewanee, Tennessee

This tiny town located on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau is home to Sewanee: The University of the South, and each December, students, staff, and community members come together to decorate the university’s All Saints’ Chapel for Christmastime. The chapel then hosts The Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols. The candlelit services, which have been happening for 60 years, bring the community together for music, readings, and moving holiday celebrations.

Lights on the Square in Moultrie, Georgia

On Thanksgiving each year, this small South Georgia town lights up its central courthouse square (which is affectionately called “The Square”) with an enormous canopy of multi-colored lights. The tradition dates back to 1930, and the whole town comes out to see the holiday lights turned on during the town’s Lights! Lights! event. You can see the lights throughout the holiday season, as they stay illuminated each night until January.

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Pirate Festival in Tybee Island, Georgia

Every year, the Tybee Island Pirate Festival brings the community together to celebrate its coastal locale and quirky personality. A parade, live music, costume contests, and plenty of swashbuckling fill the town each October. The island has been hosting its pirate festival for 15 years, and they have no signs of slowing down.

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