Festival Season 09

It’s festival season once again. There are dozens of different events scheduled along the First Coast, beginning in March and going strong through the end of May. And though a few things have dropped off the list this year because of the dents in the economy, there is reason for excitement, especially for music lovers who will miss Langerado and Warped Tour. The void has been filled by the St. Augustine Harvest of Hope Festival. Best of all, the proceeds go to a good cause, help for migrant workers. Even if there isn’t anything you’d like to hear at that music fest, there’s bound to one fest that plays what you like, from the Americana sounds at the Spirit of the Suwannee to the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Festivals bring hordes of people who enjoy sunshine, fresh air and the evening stars all to the sounds of blues, rock, folk, country, Celtic and jazz. The many music festivals offer outstanding entertainment with performances by top headline talent and also showcase much of our area’s treasure trove of local talent.
There’s quite a variety of outdoor themed events from strawberries and azaleas to pirates, butterflies, music, food and art. Whether you’re looking to sample lots of outstanding food or seeking that unusual piece of original art, you’ll find it this festival season. You can stroll through the maze of artisans and crafters, who are unique among themselves, or sit back in your folding festival chair amidst the delightful scents of delicious food and watch the people parade by. You will be totally amazed at the carnival of characters you’ll encounter.
EU Jacksonville’s annual handy Festival Guide will help you find the perfect festival for you and your whole family. Art lovers, nature lovers, strawberry lovers and even speed lovers (not the drug) can all find a fest to fit them somewhere in the area, so take a look at our list and mark your calendars please!

MARCH

Harvest of Hope Festival
March 6-8, St. Johns County Fairgrounds, harvestofhopefest.com. We shouldn’t mourn for Warped Tour-we’ve got the Harvest of Hope. The list of bands is long, but here are just a few you might want to check out: GZA (of Wu-Tang fame), The National, Propagandhi, Tokyo Police Club and Gaslight Anthem. Check out their website for a longer list. Tickets are $29.50 per day or $39.50 for a three day pass after February 1. (If you buy tickets ahead of time you’ll get $10 off the price of tickets). Camping sites are available for 3-day ticket holders at $29.50, good for up to for four people per site. (More info on page 12.)

Mad March Speed Fest 2009
March 6-8, Starke’s Bradford Road Course, mmsf.gorally.com. At the European Rally School & Motorsports Park, this year’s Mad March Speed Fest will include Supermoto races, Time Attack Time Trials, Mad March Stages Rally 80 mile tarmac rally, and an Open Track Day for both public and competitor use. Call 352-473-2999 for more info.

63rd Azalea Festival
March 7-8, Downtown Palatka, flazaleafest.com. The Azalea Festival is located Downtown on the banks of the historic St. Johns River. Parking is plentiful and admission is free. Includes a 5K run. Start and finish is at Ravine Gardens State Park. Info: 386-328-1503

28th Annual Lions Club Seafood Festival
March 13-15, Francis Field in St. Augustine, lionsfestival.com. This Winn-Dixie sponsored three-day event is a favorite throughout Northeast Florida and features tons of delicious seafood, outstanding music and affordable arts & crafts. The event will be fun for all ages, so bring the kids. The business showcase, contests and prizes add to the fun. 4- 10 pm on Friday, 10 am- 10 pm on Saturday, and 10 am-5 pm on Sunday. Admission is $2 for adults, kids 12 and under free. Proceeds go to benefit Lions Club charities. Festival entertainers include the Cheryl Watson Band, Southern Lite, Katherine Archer, Marty Rabon with Full Circle and the dynamic sounds of Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike.

Jax Irish Fest
March 14, Jacksonville’s Metro Park, jaxirishfest.com. Are you Irish? Would you like to pretend to be? Or do you just like to knock back your Guinness? There will be the usual assortment of Irish arts and crafts and Irish-style entertainment. Listen to Spade MacQuade, laugh at comic Derek Coghlan and watch Irish dancing and much more! Check out the website for a full listing of entertainers. Let your shamrocks shine with Irish rockers the Blaggards, followed by Rathkeltaiir-one of the most talked-about bands on the Celtic festival circuit. An Triur-a, a trio out of Gainesville, will be playing traditional Irish music. And a staple at all Irish fests, dancers from Glas Tara School of Dance and the Blake School of Irish Dance will bring their flying feet to the stage. This Celtic fun-fest delivers one of the most original, audience-friendly shows you will see anywhere.

St. Augustine Beach Birthday Bash
March 28, St. Augustine Beach Holiday Inn, (904) 501-1253. Twist and shout the night away with the Big Band sounds of the 21-piece All Star Orchestra at the 50th Birthday Celebration for the City of St. Augustine Beach. The party is from 7 pm until midnight and features great music, dance contests, tasty food, a complimentary cocktail and even discounts on rooms at the Holiday Inn at the Beach where the festivities take place. Tickets to the “Twist and Shout” party are $40 each.

Jacksonville Beaches Founders Day Celebration
March 21, The Beaches Museum & History Center, bm-hc.com. If you’re already out at the Seawalk Pavilion for the Great Atlantic Seafood Festival, why not stop into the Beaches Museum for a free all-day celebration featuring food, music, arts and crafts? 10 am-3 pm.

Great Atlantic Seafood Festival
March 21, Seawalk Pavilion, jacksonvillebeach.org. Chow down on Florida seafood, fried, boiled, grilled or blackened. Enjoy arts & crafts, rides, games and music for the whole family. Bands attending include Chroma, the Yankee Slickers, Late Nite Transfer, Saltwater Grass, Simplified, and headliner Blueground Undergrass.

17th Annual Lighthouse Festival & Michelob Ultra 5K
March 21, 81 Lighthouse Avenue St. Augustine, staugustinelighthouse.com. Admission to the tower, museum and grounds is free from 11 am- 6 pm. The Victorian-era Light Station will be filled with children’s games and crafts, pony rides, live entertainment and refreshments. Please remember that for their safety, children need to be 44″ tall in order to climb the tower, and an adult must accompany children under 12. The 5K Run begins at 4:30 pm and the Fun Run begins at 5 pm; both races will start and finish in front of the lawn of the keepers’ house.

Suwannee Springfest
March 26-28, Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, magmusic.com/lineupspringfest.htm. Camp, enjoy nature and some off-beat Americana bands such as the Duhks, Donna the Buffalo and the Lee Boys. (More info on Springfest on page 7.)

River Celebration Festival
March 28, Walter Jones Historical Park, mystjohnsriver.com. Part of “Jax Parts Get Out There” Celebration. River rides, kayaking, children’s games and activities, food, music, and more!

APRIL

George’s Music Springing the Blues
April 3-5, SeaWalk Pavilion, springingtheblues.com. Springing the Blues is a free outdoor blues music festival designed to celebrate America’s indigenous musical form and promote support of the arts. The three-day oceanfront event features a number of renowned blues performers as well as numerous displays and activities geared for the entire family. The festival features performers on two different stages. Friday night kicks the blues off with the John Miller Band followed by J.P. Soars & the Red Hots, Regi Blue, and Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band on the main stage. The West stage features Tommy Thunderfoot & the Acceleratots, Toots Lorraine & the Traffic and 15-year old guitar avatar Conrad Oberg as headliner. On Saturday, the blues fill the sunshine with the great sounds of Skinny Legs & All, WSNB, Marquise “Manchild” Knox, E.G. Kight, Dave Herrero featuring Felix Reyes, Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcolm, Eddie Shaw & the Wolf Gang, the Legendary JC’s and Lucky Peterson. The Sunday lineup showcases Willie Mae, Samuel James, Nicole Hart & the NRG Band, Jim McKaba & the After Hours Band, Ed Cotton & the Smashed Ramblers, Robin Rogers, Roger “Hurricane” Wilson and Greg Baril closes the festival fun as the sun sets. Other activities include movies, a surf contest and much more. (Read about George’s Music on page 9.)

Rhythm & Ribs Festival
April 3-5, St. Augustine’s Francis Field, rhythmandribs.net. Smack your lips and stomp your feet at this annual festival featuring championship barbecue dishes from around the country. A variety of outstanding entertainment throughout the weekend will be presented. The Red River Band starts the rhythm on Friday followed on Saturday by Sherry & The Psydelics, Spectra, J.W. Gilmore & the Blues Authority and headliner Leon Russell (see page 8). Sunday features ribs and Funk Shui and the Falling Bones. Admission is $2 and $5 Saturday. Friday 5- 10 pm, Saturday 11 am- 10 pm and Sunday 11 am- 5 pm

41st Mandarin Art Festival
April 11-12, Jacksonville’s Mandarin Community Club, mandarincommunityclub.org. Booths exhibit art and fine crafts including painting, jewelry, glasswork, pottery, sculpture, photography and more. Mandarin children will eagerly await the egg hunt held on Easter Sunday. Hundreds of children under 10 are expected to arrive with baskets in hand at 1:30 pm in Walter Jones Historical Park. Free parking and shuttle service at Mandarin Presbyterian Church and Albert Field will bring festival-goers to the show. A voluntary small donation of $1 is requested as an entry fee. Proceeds are used to support the non profit mission and projects of the Mandarin Community Club. Go online or call 268-1622 for more details.

St. Augustine Spring Art & Craft Festival
April 18-19, Francis Field, staaa.org, 824-2310. St. Augustine’s longest-running and most prestigious Art & Craft Festival comes to the Special Events field the weekend after Easter. Produced by the St. Augustine Art Association, the oldest arts group in the Sunshine State, this juried show features over 100 of the best and brightest artists from across the region with works ranging from glass, wood and jewelry creations, to sculpture, paintings, photography and more. New this spring will be performances by local musical, vocal, dance and theater groups on the main stage throughout the two-day event. A cultural booth will be on-site promoting area arts organizations and a new KidZone will give children the chance to explore their creative sides and exhibit their works on the outdoor “Clothesline Gallery.” Also on display will be the “All County High School Art Exhibit.” Visitors will enjoy a wide variety of sweet and savory specialty foods and international wines and beer will be on tap.

14th Annual Flower & Garden Expo
April 18-19, St. Johns County Agricultural Center, epiccommunityservices.org. This annual gardening extravaganza benefits EPIC Community Services. In addition to a wide variety of vendors offering beautiful and unusual plants, flowers, herbs and other gardening accessories, the Garden Club of St. Augustine offers a standard flower show and the Piece Makers Guild of St. Augustine offers a quilt show. Also an exciting schedule of expert lecturers will be sharing information for making your garden grow.

Bradford County Strawberry Festival
April 18-19, Downtown Starke, mainstreetstarke.com. So you missed the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City. Don’t cry, dry your eyes and schedule a drive to Starke, which has its own festival for these fabulous little fruits. See arts, crafts as well as “The Legends Show” featuring Elvis, Patsy Cline & more.

23rd Annual Cathedral Festival
April 18- 20, St. Augustine’s The Mission of Nombre De Dios, cathedralfestival.com. From a flea market to Bingo and a bakery goods booth, you’ll find everything you’ve come to expect from a Catholic carnival, including a Midway, pony rides and raffles.

Suwannee River Jam
April 23-25, Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, suwanneeriverjam.com. Montgomery Gentry, Gretchen Wilson, Colt Ford and many other country music acts will be part of the line-up. Camping is available for the fest, see the site for more info!

13th Annual Taste of St. Augustine & 3rd Annual ‘Birth of the Blues’ Music Festival
April 25, St. Augustine Amphitheatre, epiccommunityservices.org. Pairing great food with great music from noon to 9 pm. St. Augustine’s finest restaurants will offer samples of their signature dishes as they compete for the coveted T.O.St.A. and People’s Choice Awards. Local and regional blues musicians Soul Slinkee, Stormy Weather Blues Band, Regi Blue, Al Stone Band and Kevin Marcus Dillon Band will provide music all day on the Amphitheatre stage. Come hungry and ready for fun! All proceeds benefit EPIC Community Services.

Butterfly Festival
April 25, Tree Hill Nature Center, treehill.org. The festival features a butterfly exhibit, games and activities for children, live entertainment, special lecturers, food and much more. The event runs from noon to 5 pm and culminates with nature’s fireworks – a live native butterfly release. This is a sight guaranteed to delight young and old. $10 per family, $3 for a single person.

MAY

46th Annual Isle of Eight Shrimp Festival
May 1-3, Fernandina, shrimpfestival.com. The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival includes dozens of food booths featuring shrimp specialties. The Fine Arts Show has been ranked 38th in the nation by Sunshine Artist Magazine as part of their 200 Best Shows in the United States. Each year, the Festival is held in the historic Downtown Centre Street business district in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. The festival is a lively mixture of fun including an annual “Pirate Parade” to kick things off on Thursday and features juried fine arts and crafts show, antiques, live entertainment, Southwest Airlines Kids Korner, contests, pirates, free admission and 25 food booths featuring shrimp prepared every way possible by local non-profit organizations. For more information, access shrimpfestival.com or call toll free (866) 426-3542.

Gamble Rogers Folk Festival
May 1-3, St. Johns County Fairgrounds, gamblerogersfest.com The 14th Annual Gamble Rogers Folk Festival is back this year with a lineup of the best in national, local and regional talent beginning at 7 pm on Friday and concluding at 5 pm Sunday. Entertainers include Jesse Winchester, one of the finest songwriters of his generation, and the New Hip featuring seven-time International Bluegrass Music Association Bass Player of the Year Missy Raines. Nationally-known storyteller Willy Claflin will perform “Sorry Is As Sorry Does” (a tribute to Gamble) along with his own set of unhinged comedy and musical surprises with his faithful sidekick Maynard Moose. Jack Williams will dazzle audiences with his guitar playing, Tracy Grammer will entertain with her distinctive voice and a mastery over her instruments and Gatorbone’s musical family of friends will bring its amazing spectrum of music back to the Bigtop Stage. Ben Prestage will play also his own brand of Florida Swamp Blues on a unique stereo guitar/bass combo with a drum kit and four foot pedals. There will be Contra dancing on Friday and Saturday nights after the Bigtop Stage concerts end. The festival grounds provide plenty of room for camping and the ever-popular Friday free pre-show fish fry returns again for paid attendees. Weekend tickets at $60 each, RV hookups, and primitive camping reservations are on sale now at gamblerogersfest.org. Donations through the website are gratefully accepted to help keep the Gamble Rogers legacy alive and to pass it along to younger generations.

16th Annual Ponte Vedra Art Festival
May 16-17, Sawgrass Village Ponte Vedra, Venuesplanning.com This is a two day art festival that runs from 10 am to 5 pm each day features fine art and crafts, a Kids Korner Art Center and plenty of food. Artists travel from all over to participate in this event. The festival is open to the public and has a long history in the Ponte Vedra Community.

Florida’s First Coast Arts Festival
May 18- 24, St. Augustine Amphitheatre, floridasfirstcoastartsfestival.com The University of Florida, College of Fine Arts, School of Theatre and Dance will present Florida’s First Coast Arts Festival. Visitors will be able to see multiple performances of high-quality theatre and music productions as well as view award-winning sculptures on the grounds of the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. The festival will present five different productions, the outrageous Rocky Horror Show, Pride and Prejudice, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra with a family-friendly Pops musical presentation and A Night at the Opera will feature outstanding performances from some of the most popular operas of all time. Info: 352-273-0501. Festival tickets available at ticketmaster.com.

Jacksonville Jazz Festival May 21-24, Downtown- Laura Street Corridor (Laura Street between Hemming Plaza and the Jacksonville Landing), jaxjazzfest.com The 2009 festival will continue the tradition of Jazz in Jacksonville with a variety of jazz genres and special components. Other activities include the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition, the Art in the Heart Art Show & Sale, Wine Down: A Wine Tasting Experience featuring a variety of fine wines, the ‘Round Midnight Jazz Jam and a Jazz Brunch.

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