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Not-to-be-missed Food Festivals?

My husband and I have been planning our year according to which food festivals we consider to be worth travelling for (either by car or plane). Since we're both chowhounds, we're looking for gems that we might have been overlooked or not heard of in our part of the world.

What food festivals do you consider worth travelling for? Please include name, location, general date and website if available.

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  1. Not a direct answer, but Saveur magazine features food festivals in a short column every issue- may be a good resource

    1. Hi librarian, what's your part of the world? Are you looking for festivals in North America? Internationally?

      - Lea

      1 Reply
      1. re: Canada Eats

        We're looking for festivals anywhere. If its in our neck of the woods, we can take a weekend for it. If its not, we're hoping to ask early enough that we might be able to schedule a vacation around it. We're not adverse to hopping on a plane to try something excellent.

      2. Greek Festival at the Orthodox church in Portland, Oregon. It's in the fall, i think October.

        1. I would check out coastal areas for seafood festivals. i grew up in florida and there was a lot around. I also know the Garlic festival in Northern Californis is supposed to be great.

          2 Replies
          1. re: bethd127

            Garlic festival vwww.gilroygarlicfestival.com located in Gilroy, CA around mid-July.
            One of the best eating festivals, anywhere. (if you like garlic, up to and including garlic ive cream.) Close to San Jose, 2 hours south of San Francisco.

            1. re: bethd127

              Another Northern CA festival with great food in Stockton, CA www.asparagusfest.com/ happens in late April. The best !!

              Mushroom Festival www.GoMendo.com
              Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival, Northern CA October 13-14 2007 www.miramarevents.com/pumpkinfest/ind...

              All of these are wonderful, but very, very crowded. If you can deal with crowds they're the best!

            2. There's a Cajun/Zydeco food/music festival in Rhode Island towards the end of August - this year it ties into Labor Day.


              And there are a myriad of seafood festivals in New England through Spring/Summer. Not sure if this site will help - have no idea about the reliability and/or up-to-dateness, but it's a start.


                1. re: coll

                  The Wellfleet Oysterfest on the Outer Cape in October is supposed to be amazing- we vacation there in summer, but one of these years we are going to postpone until fall.

                2. I happen to love food festivals, state fairs and street markets, so here's a few suggestions in no particular order:

                  Gilroy Garlic Festival
                  Indio Tamale Festival
                  Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Contest/Festival
                  Germanfest in Milwaukee (for the spanferkel)
                  The farmer's market in Madison, Wisconsin
                  Chowder festival in Boston (Chowdafest?)
                  Tomatofest in Carmel
                  Spamarama (Austin)
                  Poteet Strawberry Festival
                  Muscoda Morel Festival (Wisconsin)

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: zebcook

                    ChowdaFest in Boston is not worth it, IMO.....crowded beyond crowded, you can wait forever for a small taste of chowder from one of the "contestant vendors", and they can run out before you even get to the front of the line.

                    1. re: zebcook

                      I went to Tomatofest a few years ago -- it was great!

                      1. re: zebcook

                        I've been to the Indio Tamale Festival. Crowds not being my favorite thing in open spaces, I can't recommend it wholeheartedly. But will for the tamale experience. You have to try the variety - and there have some serious tamales and serious competitors for that coveted 1st place prize for bragging rights. I had some really good ones, but alos had a few bad ones. But as festivals go, this one was a good food experience - didn't care for the crowd. I'd love to have something like this but with a built in crowd control, not open air.

                        Have been wanting to make it to the Gilroy Garlic Festival for ages - I heard they even have garlic ice cream. I honestly would love to try that.

                      2. Aspen Food & Wine
                        Taste of Vail (food and wine)

                        1. Best variety of fabulous food in the smallest area has got to be at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival http://www.nojazzfest.com/

                          Eat while you enjoy this year's line up which includes Norah Jones, Van Morrison, ZZ Top, Harry Connick, Jr., Steely Dan, Ludacris, Bonny Raitt, Jerry Lee Lewis, Rod Stewart, Counting Crows, Dr. John and many, many more that you can find listed at the website.
                          Dates this year April 27-29 and May 4-6

                          A similar festival in Lafayette, La. at about the same time.
                          The French Quarter Festival is usually right before Jazzfest.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: MakingSense

                            Overlapping the awesome JazzFest is the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival. You can do the two of them together. Many of the Cajun and Zydeco acts who play JazzFest play at Breaux Bridge first and then go over to NO.

                            The last time I went, which was in 2001 pre-Katrina, the Crawfish Festival ran from Friday night though Sunday, cost $10 admission for all 3 days, had $2 beers and $8/lb. cooked crawfish, and had over 50 hour of top-notch Cajun music on 3 stages. There was an etouffee cook-off and a huge amount of fun. We skipped the after-party at Whiskey River Landing (if it's still there) because we were too partied-out. Then we went to JazzFest.

                            Btw, try the soft-shell crawfish po'boy at JazzFest. I don't think you'll find that anywhere else.

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              I am so glad you made this post MakingSense. If you hadn't I would. A marvelous experience and the best food imaginable.

                            2. If you head to New Jersey in the late spring/summer you'll find a host of food fests in the shore area coupled with great music, boating, beach competitions and crafts/art . Bonus points for pick your own farms and vineyards!

                              Check online: New Jersey tourism site for event details & the Jersey Fresh "pick your own" list through Rutgers University Cooperative Extension.

                              1. I posted before about the Greek Festival in Portland. Actually, if you were so inclined you could almost camp out in Portland for several weeks, because there are a number of festivals of various kinds all through the summer and fall there.

                                I seem to recall that there's a big BBQ contest & festival in Kansas City. but I don't really know much else about it.

                                1. I'd love to hear from folks who have been in Alba for truffle season -- I understand it's terrific. That's my alltime most desirable food festival

                                  3 Replies
                                    1. re: orangewasabi

                                      I was in Alba in 2005 during truffle season. It was a fabulous week. The festival itself in Alba was just interesting, other than the heady aroma of truffles! Lots of people selling truffles and truffle infused products. Fabulous food and wine throughout the region!

                                      1. re: nanette90278

                                        Truffle season in Alba is fabulous. Each and every little Italian grocery is redolent with the earthy/sexy smell of truffles. It's like entering an alternate universe. Also in Alba, Alpeggio mountain cheeses that catapulted me to a new level of flavor in cheese, endless great appetizers (the Piedmontese really love apps), Barolo and Barbaresco of course, Arneis from Roero, AND giant plastic jars of Nutella (made with the Italian, not American, recipe) for a song. (Of course, how you get one into a suitcase?)

                                    2. garlic festival in saugerties ny

                                      1. Don't forget the Bogey Bottom Mullet Festival in Niceville Florida...I've never been but have coveted a friend's souvenir tee shirt for years.

                                        1. People come from all over the world for the Maine Lobster Festival - 8/1-5, Rockland, ME


                                          1. Come to my hometown food festival--the French Food Festival--in Larose, LA, and I'll let you help make the seafood gumbo. Last full weekend in October each year, here's the web link: http://mobiletel2.mobiletel.com/~bayo... Approx 1.5 hours south-southwest of New Orleans.

                                            1. My favorite festival right now is the Red River Revel in Shreveport, Louisanna
                                              It's not really a food festival....more of an arts festival, but they have some amazing food boths their. This year will be my 7th time visiting from Boston.
                                              This year it runs September 28 through October 6th. http://www.redriverrevel.com/index.html

                                              1. The Oregon Seafood and Wine festival was this weekend, I've yet to go but have heard good things, will definitely be there next year.


                                                If you like beer the Oregon brewers festival (in the summer) is always a lot of fun!


                                                1. St. Anthony's Feast in Boston's North End and the Feast of San Gennaro in New York's Little Italy. Also, where I live in Easthampton, MA is the Sacred Heart Church Annual Polish Picnic every August.

                                                  1. Polish Festival in Baltimore. It is June 1, 2, 3 this year. Also, South Beach (Florida) Food and Wine Festival but forget going this year Febuary 21, 22, 23. You have to plan and get tickets at least a year in advance. http://www.sobewineandfoodfest.com/

                                                    1. Maine Potato Blossom Festival - June
                                                      Complete with mashed potato wrestling...

                                                      1. One of the best food festivals I have been to is the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California - 3rd or 4th weekend in July. The local Greek churches here (Ventura County & LA County,CA) also have awesome festivals in late May & early June. Here is a site you might find useful. If you visit any particularly good festivals, be sure to share it with the rest of us

                                                        1. I have to second dsquarefla about the Sobe Food fest. It's impossible to get tickets if you don't buy them months in advance. However if you can do it, then you should do it! It has to be one of the most celebrated events around nowadays. It is an incredible festival featuring many of the top chefs from around the country, doing demos, signing books, walking around for you to approach and talk to. And of course, who can resist the food! I typically go to the grand tasting event, which is a half day event showcasing food demos and tents housing restaurants from all around South Florida who showcase some of their food to the public to taste. I've been every year for the past three years (this year will be my fourth) and I continue to enjoy the experience every time. Yes, the tickets can be expensive but compared to the Aspen festival, much less pricey in comparison. Not to mention, who wouldn't want to be in Miami during this season?!? We have the best weather in the country right now! (Ok, stepping off my soapbox now...I'm just a bit excited about the event tomorrow! Can't wait!)

                                                          1. The strawberry festival in Plant City Florida was fun (and delicious) when I went a few years ago but I don't know that it's worth travelling for and it looks like it's gone a little commercial.

                                                            1. The Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburgh, TN (just outside Chattanooga)
                                                              Memphis in May BBQ Cookoff
                                                              true southern charm!

                                                              1. Has anyone been to the Chowder, Blues, and Brews festival in Florence, Oregon? I know nothing about Florence, but that one sounds fun and we were thinking about trying to work it into our Seattle trip. http://www.florencechamber.com/EvChow...

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Katie Nell

                                                                  never been to the festival..

                                                                  What I know about Florence is awesome for dirt bikes and 4 wheelers etc (with sand paddles) miles and miles of really cool sand dunes!!!!!!

                                                                2. This is a bit on the lower end of the food spectrum, but I personally can't wait to hit it.


                                                                  Should be all kinds of greasy, gooey, cheesy fun!

                                                                  1. The National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Mighigan (early July). We went in 2005; it was unbelievable!

                                                                    The West Side Nut Club Fall Festival in Evansville, Indiana. DEFINETLY not for everyone. Five blocks of street food, all sold by volunteers for the benefit of non-profit organizations. Some of the participating organizations make enough money in one week to bankroll their budgets for the year. Held the first full week in October.

                                                                    1. In the travel section of Borders, I found a book called Food Festivals. It gave a lot of great info and you can ask the local hounds what they think of any that look intirguing to you.

                                                                      1. Grapefest in Grapevine, TX - street festival with wine and live music. Happens in the Fall.

                                                                        DelMarVa Chicken Festival - various locations, this year Federalsburg, MD, June.

                                                                        1. Haven't been in a few years now, but for state fairs and the like, "The Big E" (Eastern States Exposition) in West Springfield, MA isn't bad food-wise if you're in the area. It runs for about two-and-a-half weeks during the latter part of September. It's huge, and there are buildings representing each of the New England states and featuring one or more area food specialities, as well as tons of outside stalls offering a wide variety of carnival junk food. You can easily spend the whole day there and not see or sample everything.

                                                                          1. Though it has been mentioned once, it is hard to beat the Memphis in May World BBQ Championship. Not so much a festival as it is a competition, but the world's best bbq WILL emerge and be crowned.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: notgreg

                                                                              Memphis in May is the big one. another great Q festival is
                                                                              The American Royal in KC MO

                                                                            2. My father just got back from Florida and went to the Grant, FL seafood fest. Said it was very good, really enjoyed the shrimp. And all I got was this lousy t-shirt...

                                                                              1. If in the area (S.W. Florida) - the LaBelle Swamp Cabbage Festival ... specifically for the swamp cabbage (hearts of palm) made with cream, white pepper, and white bacon.

                                                                                That page mentions swamp cabbage fritters, and gator tail. But if they focused on the latter, they'd have to rename it the LaBelle Tastes-Like-Chicken Festival.

                                                                                Also, alluding to Lazy Susan's post above, South Florida (and I'd say specifically Southwest Florida) is great for shrimp... Gulf of Mexico shrimp are huge and delicious.

                                                                                1. At the Boston Harborfest there is a Chowder Festival (or Chowda Fest as the locals say) that is a lot of fun. I think it might have been featured on some show on the Food Network recently. There are a bunch of other Chowder Festivals up and down New England that are worth checking out.

                                                                                  1. Cheese Days in Monroe, Wisc. is appropriately cheesy. Every other September. Unfortunately you'll have to wait until 2008.

                                                                                    1. NIOSA (Night in Old San Antonio)
                                                                                      Different sections of the festival mark the six flags that have flown over Texas each with their own music, drink, and food. Great gorditas! www.niosa.org
                                                                                      FYI- NIOSA is only one event of a longer, bigger Fiesta celebration complete the mutliple parades, etc.. Definitely worth attending.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: adewaal

                                                                                        Yeah Fiesta offically starts this Friday here in San Antonio.The Poteet Strawberry Festival was this weekend in Poteet,Texas.
                                                                                        There is the Floresville Peanut Festival in Floresville,Tx.
                                                                                        In june is the Luling Watermelon Thump,and there is also a watermelon festival in Stockdale.All these towns are close to San Antonio.I think Seguin has a pecan festival .
                                                                                        And Cuero Texas has the famous turkey fest in October I believe.

                                                                                      2. Brat Days in Sheboygen Wisconsin, I am going again this summer, only a few hours norht of Chicago


                                                                                        I went last year, and had a great time. Cheap brats(johnsonville brats), cheap beer, live music, and fun people.

                                                                                        This year Aug 2-4

                                                                                        They even have a brat eating contest, and that japanese guy( kobayashi who eats all the hotdogs @ Nathans won last year. He ate 58 brats in 10 mins. Hopefully he is back this year to defend his crown. I was televised on ESPN last year.

                                                                                        1. Wild leeks... Ramps. aka "little stinkers".

                                                                                          There are several ramp festivals in the southern appalachians during the spring.

                                                                                          http://www.richwooders.com/ramp/ramps... lists several of them.

                                                                                          The one I've been to is in Waynesville, NC, on I-40, near Asheville.

                                                                                          1. In Mexico: Wine / Food festival beginning of August for two weeks "Fiestas de la Vendimia" in Ensenada , Northern Baja California.
                                                                                            Restaurant Week in Puerto Vallarta, May 1st to 15th prix fix menus in every retaurant participating, with menus $15 USD or $25 USD. Worth while for a Mexican Beach vacation with so,e of the best restaurants in Mexico

                                                                                            1. There have been food festivals since the dawn of time. The first harvest moon to rise on the first humans to plant crops probably shone on a scene of revelry. I've witnessed harvests in West Africa and they combine pomp and ritual with giddy celebration. Now you can find similar events in small rural communtities throughout the USA. Though the ancient festivals celebrated survival, the reaping of food which will give life to the community, like our November Thanksgiving, most current ones celebrate a favorite, chowhound-worthy food. My friend from Iowa told me of corn festivals in the town square, where people would chow down on fresh corn and fried chicken till they just about bust, and then they'd head for the free beer. In Porter, Oklahoma, it's peaches. And in West Virginia, it's ramps... those wild leeks that foodies seek (along with fiddleheads and morels, the 2 other chief forager's delights) in farmers markets from New York to San Diego ...and unlike the other harvest festivals, this one is going on NOW. There are lots and lots of them. Every town and holler has one, it seems. The best known are at Richwood, Elkins, Pickens and Helvetia. I don't know this year's dates but last year Richwood was April 22, Helvetia was April 29.and Pickens was April 15. If I had a car and lived within 500 miles, that's where I'd be.

                                                                                              Photo of ramps festival in N Carolina: http://www.jwband.s5.com/RampFestival...

                                                                                              1. Do you like shrimp, sun, sand & down time? We have the Shrimp Festival here on Amelia Island Florida. It's the first weekend in May. http://www.shrimpfestival.com/
                                                                                                is the website. My family moved here 11 years ago from California and we love it... we now say that we live and work in paradise. Worth a vacation! Amelia is located northwest of Jacksonville Florida. The northern most barrier island in Florida.

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: californiagirl

                                                                                                  Taste of the Village is a smaller food festival that happens on Carmine Street in the West Village/NYC in the early fall (I think Sept.?). Different restaurants from Carmine Street and Bleeker Street set up booths with relatively inexpensive tastes of different dishes. It's really fun and a good way to find new places to try in the Village.

                                                                                                  1. re: ctan

                                                                                                    And don't forget the Carnival in Brooklyn, on Labor Day, the West Indian American Day Parade.

                                                                                                    Way in the far reaches of Brooklyn is a street as wide as a superhighway and over two miles long. Early on parade day, the street is closed to traffic and local families set up four rows of food stalls on the sidewalks beside it. The food, like the parade spectators and marchers, is from the islands, those little tropical paradises (unless you're poor!) that are strewn across the Caribbean like a carelessly flung handful of pearls.

                                                                                                2. The Chitlin Strut Festival in Salley ,S.C. is about as unique as you'll find. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving folks from all over the country come to Salley to pay homeage to the lowly chitlin ( fried hog intestines ). Tons of the tasty treats are boiled in huge vats and the smell is so strong that trees for miles around are said to drop their leaves simultaneously. The saying in those parts is that eatin those chitlins is so good that it makes you want to strut so naturally a prize is awarded to the best strutter. They sell T-shirts at the event which proudly proclaim " We Got The Guts To Strut".

                                                                                                  1. California has food festivals year round. Some that I have attended that were terrific are the Date Festival in Indio (February) CAMEL RACES, The French Festival in Santa Barbara in July (Bastille Day) WONDERFUL, the tofu festival in August in Los Angeles which I think has outgrown little Tokyo, hope is is resurrected somewhere, Gilroy for the Garlic Festival ~~ you really must attend at least once. The Artichoke Festival in Watsonville, etc. I've never been to the tomato fest in Carmel, but OMG ~~ any reason to go to Carmel.

                                                                                                    There is an artichoke festival near Santa Barbara (Carpinteria) in April and another in Fallbrook (towards San Diego) in October. I have only attended the one in Carpenteria.

                                                                                                    There is a Strawberry Festival in May in Ventura (near Santa Barbara)

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: laliz

                                                                                                      You forgot the lamb festival in Dixon.

                                                                                                    2. It's a bit late for this year but it's getting bigger every year and is very much worth it.


                                                                                                      5th Annual Fig Festival in Fresno

                                                                                                      California's Central Valley and you can always escape to the Coast! Gorgeous.

                                                                                                      1. I found out about the Niagra Icewine Festival just days before it ended last year so I have not been but will most definitely go this year.


                                                                                                        1. Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival in Buffalo, NY on Labor Day


                                                                                                          1. Two in Massachusetts that have both food and lots of music and activities:
                                                                                                            Lowell Folk Festival in Lowell MA - food from all over the world as well as stages set up for music, again from many different countries. Held in late July.
                                                                                                            Yankee Homecoming Festival in Newburyport MA - one week packed with food, drink and lots of fun things to do. Great seafood also. All of the area restaurants come outside and serve their best fare. Held every year last week of July.