Festival Fun: Summer Celebrations in the Carolinas

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Explore a new town, try different foods and enjoy summer with these Carolina celebrations.

by Vanessa Infanzon

Cities and towns in the Carolinas celebrate history and honor traditions with varied and unique festivals. These local  tributes are community-driven and mark the importance of the area’s industry, foods and people. Summer is the perfect time to take in a few of them!

South Carolina Strawberry Festival Fort Mill, S.C.

If strawberry shortcake and chocolate-dipped strawberries bring a smile to your face, treat yourself to the South Carolina Strawberry Festival. It’s 4:30 p.m.-11 p.m. May 4 and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. May 5 at Walter Elisha Park in Fort Mill.

Dance to an ‘80s tribute band with Madonna and Boy George look-alikes on Friday night and the Bruno Mars tribute band on Saturday night. Kids may squeal at the butterfly exhibit, pig races and the amusement park. Start Saturday off with the all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, with strawberries, of course, for $6 at Nation Ford High School. Look for the car show with 115 hot rods and classics or check out the 135 arts and crafts vendors.

Each food vendor is required to serve a strawberry-themed item with Fort Mill strawberries. Try a strawberry smoothie, strawberries in a cone, strawberry skewers or fried strawberries from one of 35 food vendors. Finish Saturday with fireworks around 10 p.m.

Admission is free and parking at Nation Ford and Fort Mill high schools is $5. It includes a free shuttle to the festival.

Fort Mill’s walkable main street has shops and restaurants. Grab a beer at Amor Artis Brewing or wine, coffee and baked treats at Southern Sugar. For outdoor recreation, Anne Springs Close Greenway offers hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing and camping.

42nd Annual Lowcountry Shrimp Festival and Blessing of the Fleet McClellanville, S.C. 

McClellanville has one of the largest shrimping fleets in the area, and this festival celebrates the generations of shrimpers who live and work in the town.

The Lowcountry Shrimp Festival is 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. May 5. At 3 p.m., clergy from all the local churches gather for a procession to the community dock. A scripture and poem are read before each boat receives a blessing for a safe and bountiful season.

Foods like fried shrimp, shrimp kebob, Frogmore stew, BBQ, hotdogs and fish stew are central to this festival. Grab a beer, soft drink or lemonade and listen to live music. Don’t miss the 50 local craft vendors with pottery, jewelry, wood sculpture, paintings and much more. Kids will enjoy the giant slides and in the inflatable bounce house.

All profits from food, beverage and T-shirt sales go to Cape Romain Environmental Education Charter School. Admission is free, although a $1 donation is suggested. Park for $5 in the field next to the festival or in the street for free. Coolers are not permitted.

Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, Francis Marion National Forest and Hampton Plantation are close to McClellanville. It’s also an easy day trip from Charleston.

Carifest Charleston, S.C. 

Caribbean countries have celebrated Carnival for many years. It symbolizes the freedom from the oppression of slavery and is an opportunity for Caribbean Americans to showcase their culture with others. The Carifest celebration is June 21-24 and is in its 13th year. It’s also in honor of Caribbean American Heritage Month.

Each year the festival chooses a different Caribbean country to highlight its food, music and culture. This year, it’s Cuba. A symposium and reception at the College of Charleston North Campus featuring a speaker discussing Cuba will kick off Carifest on Thursday. Look for salsa dancing on Friday evening. Saturday’s street parade is a spectacle of costumes and starts on John Street at 4 p.m. Its participants wear elaborate Carnival costumes with bright colored sequins, feathers and bows. The parade ends at Brittle Bank Park for the main event, Festival in the Park.

Listen to reggae and soca music and steel drums. Savor foods like jerk chicken, rice and peas and curry chicken. Shop for crafts, clothes, oils, bath products and toys from American and Caribbean vendors at the Caribbean Marketplace. Saturday’s events are from 5-11 p.m. Tickets are $12 per person; children 12 and under are free.

During your visit, peruse Charleston’s varied shops and restaurants. Tour the Waterfront Park, City Market and the history and art museums.

12th Annual Liver Mush Festival Marion, N.C.

The streets of downtown Marion close for this community-wide celebration for “all things pig” and livermush, a Southern staple. Livermush is a pork and cornmeal product made by German settlers from Philadelphia who came south through the Appalachian Mountains. This unique festival is 5 p.m.-9 p.m. June 2.

Ever test your pig calling or livermush eating skills? You can here! Marion residents make sure you won’t leave the festival hungry. Vistors receive a free livermush sandwich from Hunter’s Liver Mush. Hurry to Bruce’s Fabulous Foods for a donut chicken salad sandwiches. It’s a donut (from Mr. Bob’s Do-nuts), sliced in half and filled with Bruce’s special chicken salad, lettuce and tomato.

Bring a blanket or chair and listen to Roadrunnerz, Marion’s popular classic country and rock band. Visit the craft fair and let the kids bounce on the inflatables. Admission is free.

While at the festival, check out Mr. Bob’s Donuts and Mica Town Brewing. Venture outside the town for gold and gem mining, and hiking and biking around Lake James. Hit the Catawba River Greenway or rent an inner tube for a cool ride down the Catawba River.

NC 4th of July Festival Southport, N.C.

In 1792, Southport, a historic port city, launched the “Festival of Free Men” to celebrate the nation’s independence. The festival name changed several times, but in 1972, it was incorporated as the NC 4th of July Festival. The celebration is free and includes a Beach Day on Oak Island and fireworks in the city of Southport on July 4.

This event attracts 40,000 to 50,000 people for ceremonial events such as the flag raising, veteran’s recognition and naturalization ceremony. Families come for the parade, arts and crafts fair and live music. On July 3, kids race in burlap sacks, roll watermelons and play other old-timey games. The patriotic parade begins at 11 a.m. on the Fourth of July with more than 100 participating groups.

Stop by the Shine and Show Classic Cars Show or sign up to show your own hot rod.

Stroll through Southport’s streets for views of beautiful homes. If you recognize the scenery, it may be because the city has been the backdrop to several Nicholas Sparks’ movies and the TV show, Under the Dome. Leave your car behind and take the ferry from Southport to Bald Head Island to see “Old Baldy” (Bald Head Island Lighthouse), North Carolina’s oldest standing lighthouse. Drive to Oak Island to see the Oak Island Lighthouse.

Summer is the perfect time to explore fun festivals in the Carolinas.

To plan your route, visit AAA.com/TripTik for maps and hotel reservations if you plan to overnight it.


(Photos courtesy of: York County CVB, Joachim Treptow and Matt Parvin)

(MayJune 2018 Go Magazine)

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