Every year, it happens all at once: The azaleas pop, the hills green, and, suddenly, porch swings and outdoor grills are back in business. Indoor life turns to outdoor fun, sometimes even before the calendar makes it official. That’s because, in North Carolina, springtime comes early and stays, well, if not late, then just long enough for us to celebrate it properly — with festivals! From banjo pickers to pickle lovers, gatherings abound that pay tribute to the places and people that make your heart sing. (Yep, there’s a festival for that, too.)
WRITTEN BY TONY REHAGEN | PHOTOGRAPH BY REVIVAL PHOTOGRAPHY
What began as a one-off fund-raiser for a college garden has grown into North Carolina’s biggest, most beloved music festival. Each year, plenty of famous folk, plain folk, and a bit of folklore converge to bring Doc Watson’s dream to life.
WRITTEN BY WENDY BRENNER | PHOTOGRAPH BY BAXTER MILLER & RYAN STANCIL
Imagine 2,000 strangers wandering through your living room and scrutinizing your flower beds. Every year, just as the North Carolina Azalea Festival bursts into bloom, Wilmington’s bravest homeowners welcome the intrusion with a smile.
WRITTEN BY ELIZABETH LELAND | PHOTOGRAPH BY EMILY CHAPLIN & CHRIS COUNCIL
At the annual Queen’s Cup Steeplechase outside Charlotte, spectators gather for the thunder of hooves — and for the pageantry and promenade of the well-heeled, too.
WRITTEN BY WILEY CASH | PHOTOGRAPH BY TIM ROBISON
In Brevard, a gathering devoted to singer-songwriters and their fans keeps a mother’s wisdom and wishes alive.
WRITTEN BY JEREMY MARKOVICH | PHOTOGRAPH BY GEOFF WOOD
In the creeks and rivers of the Coastal Plain, shad are harbingers of spring. For the folks in one tiny town, their annual Shad Festival also heralds a renewed spirit of resilience.