North Carolina Events and Festivals

In coastal North Carolina, both visitors and locals find an abundance of reasons to celebrate. There are miles of gorgeous beaches, plenty of charming shops and restaurants and lazy days on the shore during almost any time of the year. But, communities up and down the coast really come alive when it is time for a local festival. From small town festivities to large galas that attract visitors from all over the world, the North Carolina coast holds plenty of fun festivals throughout the year, giving everyone an entertaining new perspective of the breezy coastal communities and all they have to offer.

Day at the Docks

Every September, the residents of Hatteras Island gather in Hatteras Village to pay homage to the area's rich commercial fishing history with the annual Day at the Docks celebration. This relatively new festival that began in 2004 has surprisingly deep roots.

In 1850, the U.S. Census listed commercial fishing as the primary occupation on Hatteras Island. Some descendants of those early fishermen continued the trade for decades, if not centuries, while others took advantage of the growing tourism industry in the late 1930s to start a charter boat business. Throughout the years that followed, the pull of the Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean remained as irresistible as in earlier times, and the island is still home to these watermen.

In honor of their predecessors and their professions, local captains invite everyone to join them on a Saturday in September each year at the Hatteras docks, where the public embarks on an all-day adventure of demonstrations, crafts, food and fun.

Along the waterfront, local fishing families and tourists can admire the commercial fishing boats, charter boats and fishing gear that are displayed. During the festival, century-old workboats, including a traditional North Carolina shad boat, dock next to modern, state-of-the-art vessels.

Captains and crews demonstrate the tools and skills working watermen use at sea. Exhibits feature pound nets, gill nets, trawl nets, tuna kites and circle hooks. Fishermen and visitors are also invited to compete in a net hanging contest, a concrete marlin competition and a survival suit race.

Perhaps one of the biggest attractions at the Day of the Docks event is the annual Hatteras Clam Chowder Cook-off. Professional and home chefs square off to see who makes the best batch of the clear-based chowder, while local Outer Banks families share their special seafood cooking techniques. There are even special activities for children which include a fishing contest, fish identification game, blue crab races, a touch tank and a scavenger hunt. Close to the action, a working waterfront stage features musicians and story-tellers throughout the day.

There is no admission charge, and lunch featuring fresh local seafood is available at a modest price. At the end of the day, the festival culminates with a parade of boats sailing into the harbor, and a subsequent "Blessing of the Fleet" ceremony.

Dare Day Festival

Summertime visitors to North Carolina's Outer Banks can enjoy a multitude of festivals offered by private businesses and local cultural centers alike. Kitty Hawk Kites holds a number of seasonal festivals along the Outer Banks, like the annual Wil-Bear Wright's Festival of Fun held in June, which is geared towards kids and features face painting, yo-yo and kite stunts and the year's new toys. Later in the summer, in August, visitors can enjoy the Life Is Good Watermelon Festival, a big outdoor summer bash with a homegrown backyard feel. The festival features family entertainment, dozens of spirited games and activities and watermelons galore.

One of the larger Outer Banks festivals that has been celebrated for over 30 years is the annual Dare Day Festival, a fun-filled family outdoor event that is always held on the first Saturday in June, rain or shine.

Started in 1976, the only year it was a two-day event and was called Dare Days as part of the bicentennial celebration, the festival is considered by most locals as the unofficial kickoff of summer. The day provides free fun for the entire family, featuring hours of music, food, crafts and entertainment. Children can hop aboard a kiddie train, take in a magic show, have their faces painted and play games.

Adults can walk along the beautiful downtown waterfront in Manteo and check out the wares of more than 100 vendors offering furniture, toys, carvings, clothing, jewelry, birdhouses, paintings, wind chimes and photography. The aroma of delicious food fills the air with seafood, Polish sausages, hamburgers and hot dogs. There are also plenty of cold, refreshing beverages like fresh-squeezed lemonade, slushes and all kinds of soft drinks.

The Dare Day Festival is co-sponsored by Dare County and the Town of Manteo, with more than 5,000 people estimated to attend each year. The festival opens at 9:00 a.m. with a prayer by a local pastor for the "Blessing of the Season," and then the music begins. There will be two stages with performers playing music throughout the day and an afternoon concert. Everyone is welcome to relax, stroll and enjoy the Outer Banks summertime festivities.

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Events and Festivals

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