11 Ways to Celebrate at a Festival


It’s the town of Marshall’s way to celebrate Fat Tuesday on the streets of their town. Marshall Gras–which is sponsored by the Downtown Marshall Association– may not be set in New Orleans, Louisiana, but the people of Marshall have gone all out to duplicate the experience.  Beads. Bands. Masks. And, Fun! Spend a night with friends and pretend that you are on Bourbon Street partying with the best–and save the money that it would cost to travel to Louisiana!


The new and improved arts and music (used to be MAD on Main held in May) has moved the day to last Saturday in September and the location to Blannahassett Island and changed the name to Art on the Island Festival. Still FREE! The new venue allows the festival to put musicians on the new stage and to combine with the Farmer’s Market to offer many more opportunities to enjoy the day. Come out to browse through arts booths, sample local food and buy local produce while listening to musicians perform throughout the day. For questions, contact the Madison County Arts Council at 828 649-1301.


This may not be the Wild West, but we have the broncos and the bulls to rival the Rodeos in other parts of the country. But, this rodeo has events that are designed to focus on giving young people the opportunity to be part of a rodeo. Every second and fourth Friday of the month from April through October, you can watch or participate. There is even an event for 3 to 5 year olds. However, this is mixed with some regional and national competitors in events to the delight of the crowds. Whether it’s barrel racing, bronco riding or calf roping, there is plenty of excitement to go around.


Each year Appalachian Trail lovers gather in the town of Hot Springs to celebrate the AT. Trailfest has the perfect setting as the Appalachian Trail runs down the main street and crosses the beautiful French Broad River. Music ranges from traditional mountain music to smooth jazz and food offering abound. The day is filled with fun related to the Trail including trivia games and booths with information. Wander the craft booths or watch the famous duck race.


The last weekend of April each year, the town of Hot Springs celebrates the French Broad River Festival which flows on the each of this beautiful town. On the grounds of the historic spa–yes, there are true hot mineral springs here–the celebration includes great bands all weekend long. There are artists booths, food and plenty of other ways for the family to enjoy the weekend including races on mountain bikes or rafts. And, don’t forget to bid on items in the live auction.


When Bluff Mountain itself was in danger of being destroyed by developers, the people of the county came together and organized a fundraiser to save its natural state. Bluff Mountain Festival was a success and, even though the mountain is no longer in danger, the festival continues each year on the second Saturday of June on the grounds of the Resort and Spa in Hot Springs. The music is FREE and you can hear the best of the traditional musicians in the area. The silent auction which is a great showcase of regional artists raises money for the Madison County Arts Council and the food is just there for your enjoyment. Bring your lawn chairs and enjoy the day of music and fun.


No, it’s not the heat of August that is celebrated on this second Friday evening in August, it’s our furry friends. The streets of downtown historic Marshall are transformed with a themed celebration. Downtown Marshall Association celebrates pets in August with this event called Dog Daze. The stores are open, the streets are filled with fun-loving people watching or participating in the events.  Picture a parade of owners and their pets or a pet contest with dogs dressed in their Sunday best competing for a prize.  That’s what this Friday night is all about. Family friendly fun


Summer is berry season for fruit lovers and Madison County grows some spectacular blackberries and celebrates them in the annual Blackberry Festival at Ebbs Chapel Community Center. You can start your day with blackberry pancakes or just eat them as a dessert at a later time.  The festival includes craft booths and music provided by local traditional musicians in a beautiful setting.


What’s more fun than a good old fashioned County Fair? There is something for everybody interested in country living.  From an antique tractor display to livestock and baking judging competitions.  Young and adult categories make the judging even more fun.  You can enter or just look over and make your guess as to who should be the winner of the blue ribbon. There are also rides, craft vendors and plenty of food to round out your day at the fair.


This all-day festival held on the first Saturday each October is the second oldest folk festival in Western North Carolina. Throughout the day, you can watch music and dance performances as we celebrate regional music and dance traditions. The Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival takes its name from our native-born “Minstrel of the Appalachians” whose birthplace has a historic marker on the edge of all of the activities. Music is offered throughout the day including a free performance by the award-winning Bailey Mountain Cloggers for free.  At night, there is a ticketed concert which features the finest musicians in the region.


Sharing the same day as the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival as well as the same location, the Heritage Festival does exactly what its name suggests–celebrates our cultural heritage. You will find demonstrations of old time sheep shearing and butter churning. But, you will also find plenty of yummy food booths some of which celebrate our heritage with the foods that are on the menu. Artists and craftspeople sell their work–some of which is a style that has been handed down for centuries.