A Harvest of Festivals

Story by Joan Leotta, photo by by Lois Carol Wheatley

Beach season never ends on the swath of Carolina beaches that runs from Wilmington to the Grand Strand in South Carolina. In fact, beach locations now rival mountain leaf-peeking for fall tourist trade. Those choosing autumnal oceanside splendor also now enjoy many festivals that dot the area making up for cooler waters with crafts entertainment and more. October's festivals in particular provide a delightful punctuation to one end or the other of an October beach week.

Wilmington, NC, the area's largest city by the sea opens the October festival time with its annual Riverfest. This free festival usually held on the first weekend of October features live stage entertainment, events that focus on river lift, a handmade raft Regatta, and a large street fair. A classic car show and street race add to the gaiety along with a children's area that usually offers face painting, games, crafts and more.

The second weekend of October brings a Seafood, Blues and Jazz Festival to the area, specifically the Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation area on Pleasure Island. The music is non-stop and seafood is offered by many of the area's best restaurants. Crafts, art, and children's activities round out the offerings.

The Battleship North Carolina is a fun place to visit at anytime. During the moth of October the ship offers a day of Ghost Tales.

In late October, lasting into November, The Cape Fear Fair and Expo brings livestock and animal shows and other county fair type events to the coastal region. At the International Airport site.

Just down from Wilmington on Route 17, the town of Southport and Brunswick County's barrier islands and the Grand Strand offer fantastic October fun.

The town of Southport opens up for two fishery tournaments, the U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament and the Captain Charlie Fishing Tournament on the first weekend of the month. On the last Saturday in October the town hosts the Stede Bonnet Regatta. What might normally be an event only of interest to boating enthusiasts becomes more appealing to the general public due to the unusual rule that participants must dress as buccaneers! Nearby Silvery Coast Winery hosts a one day Oktoberfest, usually on the Columbus Day weekend.

Queen of the fall festivals is Ocean Isle's Oyster Festival which takes place each year on the third weekend in October. What makes this festival so outstanding is not only the high quality of the crafts (from as far away as Ohio) but also for its local "touches'. Oyster eating has been a favorite activity in the Carolina beaches since the days when Native Americans held oyster roasts on the shore.

The North Carolina Oyster Shucking Championships and an Oyster Stew Cook-off are not the only fun. A children's area, live music, surfing contests and booths from local government all allow the thousands of visitors to feel as though they are participating in local ritual. More than thirty thousand attended last year.

The festival's admission fee (discounts available through local newspapers) supports various charitable causes and is well worth the price for the day of entertainment—bring your own chair and enjoy the music all day. In fact, this event is so popular that only early festival goers actually are able to park on the island. Most park on the mainland side of the causeway and ferry across to the fun on free shuttle buses provided by the Festival. This year will be the 29th and it will take place on October 17 and 18.

The last full weekend in October is time to move north by one island from Ocean Isle to another of Brunswick County's south-facing barrier islands--Holden Beach. The Holden Beach Merchants Association hosts the "North Carolina Festival by the Sea" on that weekend. Many of the crafters from distant areas who come for the Ocean Isle festival stick around for the Holden Beach festival as well. This means that if you see something at the Oyster Festival but can't make up your mind about its purchase you can take the chance of finding it still on sale at the Festival by the Sea!

A bit farther south brings still more beach fun in Little River and Myrtle Beach, SC. Oktoberfest begins in September but carries into October. On the second weekend of the month, Little River hosts its two-day fall Shrimp and Jazz Fest with plenty of local shrimp to tantalize the taste buds and music to keep the toes tapping. Around the third week of the month, the Loris Bog -Off is held south of Myrtle on Route 9 in Loris.

This festival begins with a parade has a contest for the local specialty, chicken bog, and features arts, crafts, bands, local entertainment, and gospel singing. The third weekend is usually also the time for the shopping center Broadway at the Beach's Fall Festival, a free event that offers crafts and entertainment among the open spaces in this mall/entertainment complex.

An Oktoberfest featuring German food and entertainment, and a chili cook-off are also traditionally held in October.

Terms: Events and Festivals

Events and Festivals

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