Photo source: Flickr - Kris Krug
Everyone has heard of the Kentucky Derby, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Austin City Limits, and the Sundance Film Festival. These are some of the most popular festivals and events in the country. However, if you’re looking for something different, something new, there are many fantastic options out there. Here are four lesser-known, but just as exciting American festivals that are a must-see in 2016!
SXSW, Austin, Texas (March 11-20, 2016)
Originally started as a weekend showcase for independent music artists looking to be found, South by Southwest has grown to include not only one of the nation’s most prestigious film festivals but also a meeting of the most innovative minds in technology and creative design.
For the technologically savvy, the science fiction nerds, and the fledgling digital designers, check out the Interactive Festival, held the first five days of SXSW at the Austin Convention Center. With hundreds of panels, learning sessions, and presentations of the best and newest websites, apps, games, and technology, the networking and learning opportunities are endless.
The entire ten days is interspersed with the film festival events and screenings. Submissions of feature films, short films, and music videos are sent in each year to be presented, and film studios use this event as a platform to launch more eclectic films.
The last six days of this ten-day festival feature a multi-industry trade show, music gear expo, and more than 2,200 music acts spread through dozens of venues in downtown Austin. Names like John Mayer, Imagine Dragons, and the White Stripes all got their starts at this festival.
Bonnaroo - Manchester, Tennessee (June 9-12, 2016)
In the middle of nowhere, on 700 acres of farmland lies Great Stage Park, the permanent venue for not only one of the largest outdoor music festivals, but also the biggest tent city in North America! Tents, campers, RV's are all welcome.
Enjoy over 150 artists from mainstream to grassroots jam bands on stages with names like This Tent, That Tent, Which Stage and What Stage. Enjoy a change of pace with one of the live comedy shows, and enjoy all the good ‘ol southern home cooking you can eat.
Find your next favorite beer at the Broo’ers Tent which houses as many as 20 microbreweries. Grab some much-needed shade and air conditioning in the Cinema Tent, which hosts a mini film festival.
Then run it all off in one of the only 5Ks that is part of a large festival. Because you’re in the middle of nowhere, the party never really stops, and sets can last into the early morning hours. After a night of dancing, greet the sun with a sunrise yoga class, or sleep in and start all over again!
Over 80,000 people attend this festival, so be prepared for crowds as far as the eye can see. It’s worth it though - you’ll go home with a dozen new friends and the experience of a lifetime.
Bumbershoot - Seattle, Washington (September 2-4, 2016)
If you have never experienced a festival before, this one will change your life. Named for the whimsical early 20th-century-word meaning umbrella, everything that can ever bring people together for a festival is celebrated here. Dozens of music performances are littered with comedy shows on the festival’s several stages. Over 100 films are screened, some with adult content, but just as many for kids. Panels and displays on literature, pop culture, history, and visual arts showcasing the Pacific Northwest are sprinkled in among the events. Shop at the Indie Market, which only sells locally produced crafts, jewelry, furniture, art, and, of course, lots of artisanal chocolate to try. And don’t miss the zombie walk! Children 10 and under get in free, and there is an area just for them called Youngershoot where they can make crafts, paint, learn songs, put on plays, and so much more.
Tickets are $65 a day, so save your pennies. For your one stop shop with everything you could ever imagine at a festival, there’s no better place to look than Bumbershoot!
PA Baconfest: Easton, Pennsylvania (November 2016 Dates TBD)
Who doesn’t love bacon? This is the festival all about it. It started in 2012 in conjunction with Easton Farmer’s Market, the oldest, continually operating, open-air market in the country. Baconfest was originally intended to promote local sustainable farms and farm-to-table foods. Now, with over 100 vendors, The State of Bacon – a wine, beer, and bacon tasting event with live music, and the Racin' Bacon 5K, the small town festival has attracted the attention of the nation. You can get bacon pizza, bacon fudge, bacon jam, bacon Bloody Marys, and even vegan bacon soup made with fake bacon.
Everything you can think of and everything you’d never imagine has found its way to the food trucks and vendors at this festival. Enjoy beers from local craft breweries, and, of course, get your hands on fresh organic bread, produce, cheese, meat, and so much more at the farmer’s market. With eight stages and more than 20 stage performers, entertainment is free. Come out and eat your fill of bacon, if such a thing is possible!
Out of the hundreds of festivals each year around the country, these four caught the attention of the masses. Whether you have time for only one, or hit all four, you are sure to have the time of your life, make lifelong friends, and enjoy way too much food! Have fun!
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