Contrary to its misleading name, the Leaf Festival in Cashiers, North Carolina is in no way related to leaves. Regardless, this festival was an amazing experience that I enjoyed so much more that I thought I would. This event turned out to be an extravagant artisanal fair, that featured local artists, as well as people from all over the country.
When we first walked in, we were worried because the event looked smaller than what we had imagined and planned for. It was a lively setting with a lot of conversation and live music. The vendors were very excited to share not only their products, but also their stories and how they got there. Once we moved from the main area, we discovered a path that was filled with more vendors. This path seemed to go on forever, and the amount of people we met, as well as the experiences we gained were priceless.
I met this amazing older lady selling beaded jewelry. I got to talk to her, and I found out that she started doing this when she retired around three or so years ago. She also had some glass beads in her collection that she made herself. This blew my mind, because as she explained how she did it, and walked me through it, all I could think was “this is so hard.” In order to make the glass beads, she had to heat up the glass, blow it out herself, and manipulate it to take the form she wanted it to take. But she loves what she does. Her booth was next to her husband’s tree booth. They live on a Christmas tree farm, so it’s getting to be that time of the year where she takes a break from the jewelry and helps around the farm. This entire exchange made my day, and she was so excited. I even learned about her children and grandchildren and how long they have lived right there up the road in Glenville, NC.
As we continued walking down the rustic and natural path, we kept meeting more amazing artists. We met an artist that makes portraits both by hand and with a computer software that allows you to make bigger scale portraits. We stopped and spoke to this family that helped their sister in her art, as she carves designs into egg shells. Yes, egg shells. She uses a dental like drill that allows her a certain amount of precision, where she can make beautiful designs out of these eggs. We spoke with her sister, who walked us through the process and it was mind-blowing. It is also worth mentioning that she started this business when she was just sixteen years old, which we found mindblowing. It was also very wholesome, how her entire family is so invested and helping out in it all, it says so much about them.
Once we kept on moving, talking to more people, we finally made it to the end of the path were we found a wide-open green field of grass. Parents were playing with their children, and people even brought out their animals with them. You could tell, this was a very people oriented and family oriented event. We also found this amazing brick oven pizza company, that had an oven in a cart. Their pizza was very tasty, and it was very pleasing to eat while enjoying the beautiful day.
It was a beautiful event, that took place on an even more beautiful day. I would love to go back in the future and see how many of the same vendors are still around, see the difference, as for some of them this was their first or second show. There were so many layers to this event, and I am glad we got to experience it.
Written by: Myrta Santana-Santini
By Jenny Kane
Right as we arrived in downtown Lenoir at around 11:30am on that Saturday, October 21st, we could already here the sound of live music playing and people crowding around the small area. Most of the shops on the strip were closed apart from a coffee shop and a restaurant that were located side-to-side. The entire festival was only two blocks long, but it was entirely lined with barbecue vendors, craft vendors, and information tents. Right at the center of the festival was a stage tucked into a patio with a live band playing folk and blue grass tunes. Entire extended families were filing in to get seats on the grass and the smoky aroma of barbecue filled the entire event.
Eager to try some of Lenoir’s famous barbecue, I went up to the tent that had the most trophies in front of it. We found out that on top of the festival was both a barbecue competition and a poker tournament, and restaurants, vendors, and poker players actually come from across the nation to compete in this festival. That would also explain the large crowd of bikers with their affiliated gang jackets, as they made up the majority of the crowd that surrounded the poker tent.
However, I was slightly disappointed that there were only two barbecue tents from North Carolina, and only one of those two was actually from the City of Lenoir. Nonetheless, I was already hungry, so I hopped in line at the most decorated tent, knowing well what I was going to order. I asked for a half a rack of ribs and the woman kindly responded that they took cash only. I immediately panicked as I hadn’t been able to reach an ATM yet and was out of cash. What shocked me the most was when the woman told me she would give me the ribs and I could come back and pay here that day once I got to an ATM. Luckily, my friend Claire had a ten-dollar bill and took care of it for me, but I was extremely appreciative of the respect and honor that woman gave to me, knowing that if it came down to it, I would of course come back with the cash. My next question to her was where they were from. She said she and her mobile restaurant partners had driven all the way from Ohio to be at this event and were on their way to several others afterwards.
Digging into the first rib, I was immediately in barbecue heaven. It was like nothing I had ever tasted before. The glaze was thinner than I had expected but had the perfect blend of acidity and sweetness that every good barbecue should have. The base was clearly tomato, also something I had never experienced before. Finally, the pork melted right off the bone, and I finished all six ribs and made sure to lick my fingers after and tell the vendor how much I loved them.
After sitting and watching the band play while eating my ribs, we decided to walk around a little more to get a sense of what other vendors there were. We had been to a few festivals and farmer’s markets already on our journey and were happy to see that this festival had all local soap, candle, and craft vendors—nothing too commercial. Everyone we talked to was extremely kind and friendly, and it was amazing to see how many outreach groups were there spreading their information and trying to reach out to the community. Overall, this was the most comfortable I felt on our entire trip, as there wasn’t a moment that I felt like we didn’t fit in or felt like tourists.
By Claire Gaskill
It’s not every day you see one hot air balloon. At the Carolina BalloonFest, however, you can see handfuls of these helium filled flying baskets. This event entertains families with over 50 balloons the third full weekend each October. Located at the Statesville Regional Airport in Statesville, North Carolina, this festival is grand to say the least; it attracts locals, visitors, and sponsors for a three-day event by holding a variety of scheduled activities centered around hot air balloons and families. That being said, timing arrival to the festival with the scheduled events is essential and preplanning is a requirement to truly maximize the experience.
Tickets can be purchased online, and it is important to do so in advance. We learned the hard way that the event times will sell out, especially during balloon lightings and lift off. Therefore, a pre-purchased ticket well in advance will ensure you get the most out of your experience. We were disappointed to have missed the Evening Glow Window event (where the balloons are lit up during dusk) due to tickets being sold out. Furthermore, the balloon launch occurs only twice a day at most (weather conditions can alter the schedule), so if that sight is one you are seeking, planning attendance during the short window where balloons take flight is essential. However, do not fret if you cannot arrive during your ideal time. The festival has a variety of activities and a packed schedule. No matter your arrival time, you will find something exciting to fill your festival visit.
When we arrived at the festival at 10am on Sunday morning, we were by no means the first ones there. The crowd, seemingly early risers, was vast and parking was already a hike from the event itself. Multiple entrance gates and parking lots funneled into the open field at the airport that housed the event. The informal setting was contained by a radius of sponsor tents along the near side and vendor tents (which included food and crafts) along the far side. In addition to the variety of tents, the perimeter also included an alcohol section, featuring booths from local wineries and breweries, and an area for children with bouncy houses and other carnival games. Inside the circle of tents and vendors, the festival was fairly bare. There were two balloon activities and a stage for the performers who were scheduled to join later in the day. A colorful carpet of picnic blankets also covered the dewy grass where parents sat watching their kids play in the open field. Immediately, we were drawn to a tent selling fudge and candied apples. After laughing with the friendly vendor about the lack of fresh fudge around Elon, we decided on a flavor and continued exploring.
Beyond wondering through the maze of vendors, visitors also had the opportunity to wait in one of the two lengthy lines to spend $5 for a chance to go for a small lift in a tethered hot air balloon. Given this was the only way to truly experience riding in one of the balloons at the festival beyond scheduling a pricey and limited private flight, the line was extremely long. We decided to save the time and money and skip that opportunity. There was also an additional hot air balloon that visitors could pay for the opportunity to take a picture inside.
Since we were trying to save our money after paying for the admissions ticket, we were surprised by the lack of activities available to us through the ticket purchase. The number of sponsors in comparison to vendors and the additional cost of many of the attractions was a surprise. We did, however, have the free opportunity to watch a hot air balloon be set up. This process allowed us to see how the balloon goes from being rolled up in the back of a truck to taking flight. That was a really interesting and unique experience; it was the highlight of the festival for us!
As we pulled out of the parking lot and drove down the narrow dirt road exiting the airport, we reflected back on the experience a little disappointed by the lack of opportunities a general admissions ticket furnishes. If we were to do it again, we would really consider the schedule of events before going. We felt that it was not worth visiting if there was not an event you were really interested in happening. For future trips, we decided the best way to maximize the experience is to purchase a ticket well in advance for a time period when the balloons are scheduled to take flight. After coming to these conclusions, we were back on the road to our next destination.
The town of Taylorsville is nestled between two major North Carolina cities, Winston-Salem and Charlotte. It lies just off of Highway 64 at the cross section of Highway 90 and Highway 16. Driving into town we passed many commercial shops and restaurants crowded together. This gave the impression of a town influenced by financial gain instead of a town dedicated to its locals and the mom and pop shops that come with such a town.
However, the amount of people attending the Taylorsville Apple Festival that day gave a completely different impression. The website for the festival claims “the Taylorsville Apple Festival is held on the third Saturday of October and draws thousands of visitors to enjoy the day of entertainment, food and fun!” One thing they got right was the number of attendees the event draws in. Walking through the streets of downtown Taylorsville felt like pushing my way to the front of the crowd at a concert, a never-ending struggle against bodies also pushing in all directions.
This festival has been around since 1988, which makes this year’s the 29th annual festival. Each year approximately 35,000 attendees pack the downtown streets lined with booths and food carts. Three stages are set up throughout the town also, featuring youth performers, gospel performers and more. Crowds stand or seat themselves in front of these stages to enjoy the music with family and friends. A big grassy area houses the Kid’s Korner, which features blow up slides with lines of kids and a decent sized petting farm with goats, ponies and even a camel.
Venturing up and down the streets, we were highly disappointed with the items and food that we saw. The table booths displayed repetitive articles of jewelry, clothing and art. A lot of it didn’t even look like it had been handmade. We were expecting booths that would feature items one would see at a craft fair, but it wasn’t the case. As for the food. Being an apple festival we imagined there being different types of foods made with apples. Candy apples, apple pie, apple sauce, apple cobbler. We also thought there would be tons of different kinds of apples to purchase. However, the only things we saw were apple cider and one small tent selling a few types of apples. The majority of the food stands sold fair food: fried dough, nachos, pretzels, cotton candy, etc.
We had arrived to the festival at around 2:00 p.m. and despite having a semi-big lunch we were craving something to fill our stomachs. As we passed food stand by food stand and only saw fair food, we came to the realization we weren’t going to find anything better. We had to eat something they were selling. As we passed one food truck the same word slipped out of all our mouths at the same time: “Dapples…”
Our minds immediately went to the assignment we had in class where we had to write about a time we tried a new, weird food. Upon approaching the truck, we were greeted by a friendly young woman. “What’s a dapple?” we asked.
“A dapple is an apple ring fried in donut batter.”
That was all she needed to say. We were convinced. Even knowing I have a gluten allergy, I still wanted to eat a dapple. The three of us eagerly received the cardboard tray full of fried apple rings sprinkled in powdered sugar.
My first bite into the fluffy exterior was like heaven to my taste buds, especially since I haven’t eaten anything containing gluten for quite some time. However, as soon as my tongue touched the apple slice, it was immediately revolted. It was hot and slimy and seemed like the apple taste had been cooked right out of it. The texture was the weird part though because it contrasted too much with the doughnut dough.
Upon completing the dapples we realized our stomachs weren’t agreeing with the fried apple slices. Unfortunately, it was a day full of disappointments. I think this stemmed from the fact that our expectations were vastly different from reality. Had we done more research we might have known what we were getting ourselves into.
Despite my unenthusiastic assessment of the Taylorsville Apple Festival, the other attendees appeared to enjoy their time there. I don’t encourage readers to think that my experience is necessarily going to be their experience. Events like this are all what each individual makes of it. I do encourage readers to visit and explore the festival to experience it on their own.
By Jessica Mohr
For me, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of a North Carolina barbeque festival is the smell. That scent of pigs parts being slowly roasted over a variety of wood wafts all around you, and you can’t get the vague taste of barbeque sauce out of the clothes you were wearing until they’ve been washed three times are all landmark experiences when it comes to barbecue festivals. Unfortunately, these things were not present at the 2017 Lexington BBQ Festival.
Before we get into my criticisms of the festival, let’s start off on a sunny side! Lexington, on a normal day, is a small, quaint North Carolina town with a sign for barbecue restaurants just about as frequently spaced down the road as they do signs for churches. Small, local joints with their own secret sauces and methods of smoking pig parts line the road down the center of town. Even as you drive up on 64, you can tell you’re approaching Lexington by the increasing number of billboards advertising for these local joints, as well as the large one advertising the annual, famous Lexington BBQ Festival. This is, without a doubt, a barbeque town.
Upon arriving at the festival, I was surprised to notice the remarkably normal smell of the town. When you’re going to a BBQ festival, you expect to smell some of the food you’re going to be sampling, right? We’ve all seen the TV shows of pitmasters going ham (pun intended) on half a pig over a bed of crackling wood or charcoal. After continuously being slathered in rich, homemade barbecue sauce, the meaty smells of pork and sauce waft over everything nearby. There was none of this in Lexington. If anything, I smelled more of the gas station down the road than any sort of pork products. Even while standing outside the sole barbeque food tent, I couldn’t really smell anything distinctly pork-ish, at least until I unwrapped my sandwich from its tinfoil prison.
Overall, I would say I was definitely underwhelmed by the Lexington BBQ Festival this year. There were more flea market-style merchants selling trinkets than there were actual barbecuers selling delicious pork foods, and, to be completely honest, the fried apple pie I bought from a church stand was far more satisfying than the small sandwich from the sole BBQ food tent in the middle of town. Given the hype and cartoon pig proudly advertising the festival as a BBQ festival, the event itself was not what I expected. Maybe something has changed within the town to alter the “flavor” of the festival, and make it more driven by miscellaneous vendors than restaurants? Maybe this was just a fluke year, and it will be back to normal in 2018?
Thankfully, a representative from the governing board of the festival reported that they are indeed aware of the overabundance of miscellaneous and redundant vendors, as well as the disappointingly low number of actual barbeque stands. I was happy to hear that they are planning to begin regulating vendors at the festival more stringently in upcoming years. In the recent past, the overseers of the event decided to relax regulations on who is allowed to set up shop during the festival. This, as we’ve seen, allowed people selling artisanal soap and postcards to be more prevalent than actual barbeque stands. In order to make the Lexington BBQ Festival just that again, a BBQ festival, the governing board is prepared to take action in order to restore the smells of pork to Lexington once again. I will be very excited to go back next year and see how they are doing.
Anyone who visits the Asheboro Fall Festival will quickly realize that “small, North Carolina town” is not synonymous with “lack of excitement.”
We arrived just before the start of the festival, 9:45 AM; however, the main streets of downtown Asheboro were already lined with cars. The sky was growing dark and rain made its way down onto the exponentially-growing crowd. Clearly, it takes more than a little congestion and water to keep the people of Asheboro away from a good time.
Walking into Main Street felt like being transported into another world. Vendors lined the streets; the aroma of fried food filled the air; parents let their children walk the street without fear for their wellbeing; and the overall mood was both chaotic and joyful in the best way. There was so much to take in, so many tents to walk up to and people to smile at, that we couldn’t decide what to do first.
Despite the large size of the festival–we stayed until noon, and it seemed like the people didn’t stop coming–traversing the streets of Downtown Asheboro felt like stepping into someone’s home. Every vendor and pedestrian we passed greeted us with smiles and a “How are y’all?” The large crowd didn’t stop children from finding their friends or adults from making small talk with nearly everyone they came across. Everyone knew everyone, or so it appeared, and that made Asheboro feel less like a town and more like a family.
If you plan on going to the Fall Festival in the future, bring a lot of cash. Or perhaps it might be better to come with none, lest you’re tempted to buy everything in sight. Tents along the road offered festival-goers the opportunity to browse locally made goods, from dream catchers to walking sticks. The local focus on goods only served to increase the sense of community.
Perhaps more tempting than the local vendors was the food. Tons and tons of food. Living up to the North Carolina reputation for barbecue, men dressed in camo and overalls lined the street, cooking dozens of pounds of pork for everyone to see. If pork isn’t your thing, well, then you could grab a turkey leg. And if you’re a vegetarian, there’s always roasted corn soaked with melted butter. While the southern cooking was most predominant, we were pleased to find a variety of ethnic foods as well, like Mexican and Greek. You might leave the festival empty handed, but you surely won’t leave with an empty stomach.
Whether you’re old or young, from Asheboro or Asheville, you’re bound to leave the Fall Festival satisfied and feeling at home. The town might be small, but they sure know how to throw a party.
By Laura Dunbar
The Outer Banks is a popular destination in the North Carolinian summer months, and a common misconception holds that there isn’t much to do come the off season. Though there are many less tourists and the Atlantic isn’t exactly swimmable, there isn’t a lack in activities. Among these autumn activities is the OBX Brewtag Festival, which took place on October 28th this year.
The Brewtag festival is modeled after Red Bull’s annual Flutag festival, which occurs in multiple cities around the world. Flutag is German for “flying day,” and the event features competitors attempting to fly home-made, human powered flying machines. Brewtag takes its own twist on this concept. Instead of flying machines, teams are challenged with the task of building a contraption to fly a one sixth keg barrel.
Participating teams, made up of four or more people hailing from all different states, worked for weeks on their keg-flying machines. Most resembled planes, with two wings coming out of the keg, while others had a totally different design, such as one board atop the keg. The teams all had quirky names and wore costumes to go along with it. Their excitement was palpable as they climbed the flight deck and launched the kegs into the air.
Though the concept seemed a bit bizarre to me, I was surprised to find myself getting caught up in the excitement of the crowd as the kegs went flying. Before launching, team members danced around, riling the crowd up, and by the time the keg was launched the crowd was going wild. Some kegs soared; others went crashing, face first into the ground. No matter the outcome, I found myself cheering, awe-ing, or laughing with the crowd, becoming a part of the exciting atmosphere.
The keg flying competition, though the main attraction, wasn’t all the Brewtag Festival had to offer. The festival was from 1:00-5:30, so there were a lot more activities to occupy our time. We ate from two food trucks catering the event from local restaurants, which had something for everybody— from tuna tartar in an ice cream cone to beef tacos and cheeseburgers.There were two bands performing live during the event as well, and after the keg competition we sat on the ground in front of the stage and listened to the music with other festival-goers. The first band seemed to be more of background noise to everything else, but the second band— a reggae style— had everyone dancing along. Though the event was centered around beer, it was very kid-friendly, and families seemed to be the most common of the attendees. There were many children’s activities, including a rock climbing wall, face painting, a mechanical shark, a bounce house, and an arts and crafts station. There were also many local vendors selling souvenirs and apparel, including funny graphic t-shirts that went along with the event, like a bear hugging a mug of beer saying “Beer Hug.” Because it was halloween weekend, many people were wearing costumes, which were judged in a costume contest at the end of the festival along with the awards ceremony for the keg competition, though we weren’t there to see the results.
The Brewtag also had a record number of 25 breweries in attendance, housed at their own tables under a large white tent. At the entrance to the festival you were able to purchase a punch card for 20 dollars each, good for either four beers or 12 beer tastings. The breweries had IPAs, blonde brews, ciders, etc. There was something for everyone, and there were large crowds underneath the tent for the entirety of the festival.
It was the third annual OBX Brewtag, and after talking to other festival-goers, it seemed that it was the best, despite a disagreement about whether the competition was cancelled the year before due to a hurricane. Some argued that it was, but others claimed that was a different weekend, and that the show did in fact go on. This year, though, the weather was warm, the music was great, and the entertainment was definitely unique. All in all, the OBX Brewtag was a great time and I would definitely recommend it to anyone heading to the Outer Banks during the off-season!
By Kate Flinn
A stop in Statesville led to an unexpected surprise of closed roads and throngs of people: the annual Statesville Pumpkin Festival, a beloved community tradition that marks the start of the fall season for this quaint little town. Almost immediately upon arrival, we fell upon the festival’s main stage, garnished to theme with hay and various fall squashes. A young band occupied the stage, performing a twangy, though otherwise on-key, rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” Excited about this sudden turn of events, we decided to tackle the festival head on.
Statesville is one of the oldest towns in the state, founded in 1789 shortly after North Carolina joined the United States. Due to a series of fires that plagued the original infrastructure, most of what is today recognized as historic downtown Statesville was constructed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The town’s pride for the history and community are evident throughout the festival. Festival-goers interested in learning more about Statesville are encouraged to visit the town’s historical collection, just down the street from what locals refer to as “the square.” For those seeking out recreation, the festival boasts attractions for attendees of all ages. Guests can stroll down historic Main Street and choose from a huge selection of local food vendors. From traditional North Carolina barbeque to enormous Greek gyros, this festival has it all. Personally, I opted for an appetizer of one of my favorite treats: a powdered sugar covered funnel cake.
Aligning with the peculiar human passion for smashing things, attendees of all ages can line up for the chance to bludgeon a pumpkin with a large sledgehammer. Sounds relatively straightforward, right? Yet these attempts may be the most entertaining part of the festival. For as many people lined up to try, there were observers in the crowd, watching five- and fifty-year-olds take a crack at it with a good laugh.
For those willing to fight the crowds and branch out into the streets surrounding Main Street, much more awaits at the Statesville Pumpkin Festival. Diving headfirst down a side street, one will find a sea of merchandise vendors. Hesitantly glancing at a few of the vendor’s booths, we spotted everything from handmade jewelry to mason jars of from-scratch butters and jams. The plethora of options is nearly counterintuitive, inducing an over-stimulated trance that makes it difficult to choose where to begin.
One stand in particular–the unbranded soy-candle tent with over fifty unique flavors–was a big hit for any self-diagnosed candle addict. Of the couple selling the candles, it was the husband who began making candles when a back injury put him out of work. He and his wife import the soy locally from Raleigh and use scented oils to craft their signature flavors including “Sandalwood” and “Clean Linen.” After smelling every single scent they had to offer, at least twice, I settled on the “Ocean Breeze” scent and walked away excited about the new addition to my collection.
Amidst the seemingly endless expanse of tents, booths, and vendors, non-shoppers may enjoy strolling through the Festival’s antique car show. From vintage pickup trucks to glimmering muscle cars, the assemblage of old-fashioned automobiles is bound to transport visitors through time. Though hours could be spent milling through the festival’s beer garden or watching the line up of scheduled performances, for the sake of the college student budget, it was time to end our day there. Though our experience at the Statesville Pumpkin Festival was unplanned, the sounds, smells and history of historic downtown Statesville will stick with us long after we continue our journey down Highway 64.
By Samantha Lubliner, 2016
The town of Franklin was bustling but the life of the party was on the outskirts. Hoards of people, young and old alike, crowded around downtown Franklin.
A steep paved hill ran through the center of town toward the more residential and on this specific Saturday, it was near impossible to find an opening amidst the gathering. Caution tape and balloons guarded the road as onlookers peaked over and leaned with their full body weight to watch the spectacle.
There was a booth atop the hill advertising the sale of pumpkins for the competition. Participants were given a number which was then called for the next-up to get into position and get ready to begin.
The Pumpkin Roll:
Participants were instructed to pick a pumpkin (pro tip: a round pumpkin rolls differently than a cylindrical pumpkin.)
Two men clad in neon vests stood at the bottom of the hill next to the mark indicating the farthest rolling pumpkin record.
The challenge was simple: how far can you get your pumpkin to roll? The trick was in the direction, similar to bowling. Cones were not satisfactory in their job of protecting the audience of run-away pumpkins. If the pumpkin rolled into the viewing audience, it was encouraged to kick the pumpkin back into bounds. More often than not, the tough ground will be too much for the pumpkin resulting in an explosion of seeds and gooey orange insides.
Cheers erupt as the pumpkin rolled down the hill, and you heard shouts with such emotion you never thought you would:
“Roll, pumpkin, roll!”
“Yes, I knew that pumpkin was a winner”
“WOOOOOOOOO YES, GO PUMPKIN!”
Although repetitive, the crowd was unwavering in enthusiasm. After a long while and many rounds as spectators, we said good-bye to perhaps one of the best and underrated sports.