Every year when the amount of sunshine matches the amount of night time, it’s springtime and festival season in Northeast Florida. From pirates and planters to shrimp, catfish, butterflies, art, strawberries, azaleas, rockers, rappers, bluegrass pickers and cool jazz, we have it all. And it’s all within a mere hour’s drive and held in some of the most beautiful venues on the planet.
Enjoy a day of music while strolling the aisles of art, trinkets, tie-dye and $5 jewelry, downing ample quantities of your favorite beverage and stuffing your face with fried anything-that-keeps-your-doctor-in-business. Really, all of these festival are very family-friendly (at least during daylight hours) and a great opportunity to get everyone (Dad, too!) off the couch and out of the house for a treat of the season.
Before you head out, check the event website for any last minute schedule changes, and also note restrictions (pets, coolers, umbrellas, cameras, etc.) and plan to wear sunscreen or a good hat—this is Florida.
March 1-11 The Florida Strawberry Festival Plant City, www.flstrawberryfestival.com
The biggest strawberry fest in the state. Arts and crafts, a ball and the crowning of the Strawberry Queen are all part of the festivities. Check the fest music schedule to plan your day around listening to the Oak Ridge Boys, Gretchen Wilson, the Gatlin Brothers with Crystal Gale, Air Supply, Vince Gill, Hanks Williams, Jr., Josh Turner, the Charlie Daniels Band, Reba and more!
March 10-11 St. Augustine Celtic Fest & St. Patrick’s Day Parade Francis Field, St. Augustine, www.CelticStAugustine.com
This authentic cultural event features top-shelf international headliners and regional stars, clans, Celtic vendors, plenty of fun for kids and even a comic Irish play. From traditional Irish music to Scottish pipes and drums to contemporary Celtic Rock, great traditions of music, literature, and all things Celtic will converge in this wonderfully romantic city for a week-long celebration to honor St. Augustine’s remarkable Celtic history and heritage, which goes all the way back to its founding in 1565! St. Augustine is not only the nation’s Oldest City, it’s the first and oldest Celtic city in all the Americas! The 2nd Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday, March 17 steps off at 10 am in downtown St. Augustine!
March 16-18 Annual Lions Club Seafood Festival Francis Field, St. Augustine, www.lionsfestival.com
This Winn Dixie-sponsored three-day event is a favorite throughout Northeast Florida and features tons of delicious seafood, affordable arts and crafts, outstanding music featuring Grammy-nominated Valerie Smith, Lonesome Bert & the Skinny Lizards, Katherine Archer, the Florida State Bluegrass Band and many more. $2 adult admission; children 12 & under free! Friday 3-9 pm; Saturday 10 am-9 pm; Sunday 10 am-5 pm. No pets or coolers allowed on festival grounds! Call 829-1753.
March 17 Wild Azalea Festival Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, White Springs, www.floridastateparks.org/stephenfoster/events.cfm
Join the town of White Springs at the state of Florida’s Nature & Heritage Tourism Center from 9 am to 4 pm as they celebrate the spring bloom of wild azaleas along the Suwannee River. The free festival features musical performances, arts and crafts, trail hikes and other outdoor recreational opportunities. Native plants, including wild azaleas, will also be for sale. The event is sponsored by the Nature & Heritage Tourism Center and the White Springs Special Events Committee. For more information, call 386-397-4461.
March 19-20 Celtic Music Festival Ormond Beach, www.ormondcelticmusicfestival.com
Twenty five Celtic performers, pipers and dancers will entertain continuously on two stages, and a jam tent and workshop is open to all who wish to bring their instruments. Dining choices include fish and chips, scones, haggis, American food, Thai and gourmet foods from around the world. Admission is $5 and children under 12 get is free. $2 Admission coupons are available at downtown businesses. For ticket information call (386) 676-3375.
March 22-25 Suwannee Springfest Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak, www.suwanneespringfest.com
Camp, enjoy nature and some off-beat Americana bands: Yonder Mountain String Band, Peter Rowan & Tony Rice Duo, Justin Townes Earle and so many others! Wanee Weekend Festival Event tickets include all four days of music and fun plus four nights of primitive camping. Camping upgrades (RV sites and cabin rentals) are available through The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. Guests may call the park office at (386) 364-1683 to reserve campsites and to inquire about trail fees and available golf carts. Ticket is priced per person. Base ticket price: $180.
March 24 Metro PCS Great Atlantic Festival Seawalk Pavilion, Jacksonville Beach
Enjoy Florida, Louisiana and Key West seafood cooked every possible way, Zydeco, jazz, blues, a fashion show, kids rides and games and a 5K run, plus a crafts market. Music starting at noon with Michael Burks. Other acts include Simplified, Sol Driven Train, Rachel Warfield and Split Tone. Admission is free.
March 24-25 Jacksonville Fine Arts Festival Avondale on St. Johns Avenue, www.avondaleartworks.com
The Avondale Merchants Association, in conjunction with the Greater Jacksonville Cultural Council, Riverside Avondale Preservation District, the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Avondale Artworks and many more community-minded organizations are pleased to announce the inaugural Jacksonville Fine Arts Festival. The festival will be held in Boone Park, within walking distance of the the Shoppes of Historic Avondale. Artists from around the U.S. will be in attendance, with original works in oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastels, fine ceramics, photography, graphic art, metal work, original handmade jewelry, wood work, and much more. Food for the festival will be provided by the mouthwatering restaurants of the Shoppes of Historic Avondale.
March 29-April 7 Clay County Agricultural Fair Clay County Fairgrounds, www.claycountyfair.org
Fair food, music by DeWayne Spaw and Colt Ford, an early Florida Village demo, exhibitions and more. Tickets: adults $8, seniors 65+ $5, children 6-12 $5, children under five get in free.
April 13-15 George’s Music Springing the Blues Seawalk Pavilion, Jacksonville Beach, www.springingtheblues.com
Springing the Blues is a free outdoor blues 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. Headliners for 2012 include Joel DaSilva and the Midnight Howl, the Toni Lynn Washington Band, Victor Wainright & the WildRoots, the Lee Boys, Joann Shaw Taylor and Lucky Peterson featuring Tamara Peterson.
April 14 Art & About Orange Park Town Hall, RT 17 and Kingsley Avenue, www.artguildoforangepark.com.
The event, sponsored by the Art Guild of Orange Park, Inc., the Orange Park School of Music and the Town of Orange Park, will feature local artists displaying their work, student art exhibits from area schools, art demonstrations, free hands-on children’s art activities, music all day long in the Pavilion, a raffle to support our annual art scholarship program and great food. Come and be a part of “Keeping the Arts Alive.” From 10 am-5 pm.
April 14-15 Jacksonville SuperFest University of North Florida, www.jacksonvillesuperfest.com
SuperFest is Northeast Florida’s annual earthshaking multi-day musical extravaganza that promises the most notable and buzz-worthy local artists, bands and musicians. Jacksonville SuperFest brings together communities and fuses diverse entertainment and music genres. There are more than 70 acts performing on three stages- Pop, Rock, Electronic, Country, Hip Hop, R&B, Christian, House, Dub Step, Reggae, Latin and Jazz. There will be activities
for the entire family, including an arts market and Kids Zone. The event is $15 per day for students and $20 per day for general admission. Purchase your tickets at Mellow Mushroom or online: www.fla.vor.us/jacksonvillesuperfest. Proceeds to benefit the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind and Arc Jacksonville.
April 16-17 Bradford County Strawberry Festival Downtown Starke, www.mainstreetstarke.com
Pet-friendly family fun, entertainment, FREE train rides and bounce house. Enjoy food and craft vendors: BBQ spiral taters, Hillbilly Home Brew, arepas, gyros, smoothies and more. Call 964-5278 for more info.
April 19-21 Wanee 2012 Music Festival Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak, www.waneefestival.com
The Allman Brothers Band (April 20 & 21), Furthur (April 20 & 21), Gov’t Mule, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, Buddy Guy, Bruce Hornsby, Mickey Hart Band, Hot Tuna Electric, Ray Manzarek & Roy Rogers Band, Leftover Salmon, North Mississippi Allstars, Trigger Hippy (Joan Osborne, Jackie Greene, Steve Gorman, Audley Freed, Nick Govrik), Soja, Conspirator, EOTO, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Particle, Devon Allman’s Honeytribe, Zach Deputy, Matt Schofield, Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio, Big Sams Funky Nation, Charles Bradley, Bonerama, Jacob Jeffries Band, The Yeti Trio, Bonnie Blue!
April 21 Suntier Music Festival UNF Student Union Ballroom, www.synconation.com
Local music blog Synconation has teamed up with UNF’s Osprey Radio for the first ever Suntier Music Festival. The showcase will feature performances by Sunbears, Gospel Music, Emperor X, Navigateur and others. This event is still taking shape, so keep an eye out for updates on Synconation’s website.
April 21-22 Annual Flower & Garden Expo St. Johns County Agricultural Center, www.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 there will be a quilt show offered by the Piece Makers Guild . Also, an exciting schedule of expert lecturers will be sharing information for making your garden grow. Tickets are $5 for a two-day pass. Call 829-3295 for more information.
April 23-24 44th Annual Mandarin Art Festival Mandarin Community Club, www.artfestival.com/Festivals/Mandarin_Art_Festival_Jacksonville_Florida_April.ASPX
The Mandarin Art Festival storms back for its 44th year. Artists from all over the nation will converge on this historic community on Easter weekend. For this year’s event, the volunteers of the Mandarin Art Festival will be partnering with Howard Alan Events to make this great art fair even better. Art lovers from all over the area will be taking in gorgeous paintings, exquisite jewelry, handmade pottery, breathtaking photography, and larger-than-life sculptures. Also going on this weekend at this great art fair will be a kids art show, a one-of-a-kind green market and a kids Easter egg hunt. Bring the family for this time-honored event that offers something for everyone. There is an admission fee of $1 per visitor benefiting the Mandarin Community Club. Saturday and Sunday 10 am-5 pm.
April 27-28 Rhythm & Ribs Festival Francis Field, St. Augustine, www.rhythmandribs.net
The annual Rhythm & Ribs Festival features award-winning barbeque, great live music and children’s activities. This festival continues to grow each year and attracts music lovers and barbeque aficionados from all over the Southeast. Over 20,000 visitors come to enjoy the fun over the Festival weekend. This year’s headliner is JJ Grey and Mofro. Friday 5-10 pm, Saturday 11 am-10 pm, Sunday 11 am-5 pm. Admission $2, except for Saturday after 3 pm when it is $5.
April 28 A Taste of St. Augustine St. Augustine Amphitheatre, www.epiccommunityservices.org
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. Noon to 8 pm. While enjoying great food, enjoy the live music festival and vote for your favorite to win the ‘Battle of the Bands’. $5 admission with taste tickets $1 each. Don’t forget the Race to the Taste 5K taking place at 4:30. The only 5K partnered with an extraordinary culinary event – visit www.racetothetaste.org for more details! Call 829-3295 for more information.
April 28 Butterfly Festival Tree Hill Nature Center, www.treehill.org
The festival features a butterfly exhibit, games and activities for children, live entertainment, special lecturers, food, and much more. Event from 10 am-4 pm. Live butterfly release at 3:30. Special festival admission pricing: adults $5, seniors/military/students $4, children (4-17) $3, under 4 FREE.
April 29 Welcome To Rockville Metropolitan Park www.welcometorockvillefestival.com
Get ready to…R-O-C-K! KORN, Shinedown, Evanesence, Five Finger Death Punch, Halestorm, POD, Adelitas Way, Trivium, Black Stone Cherry, Art Of Dying and more.
May 2-5 Suwannee River Jam Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak, www.suwanneeriverjam.com
Country music artistry from Steve Holy, Justin Moore, Ashton Shepard, Josh Turner, Craig Morgan, LoCash Cowboys, Joe Nichols, Randy Travis, Trace Adkins and more. Check out the website for camping and ticket options.
May 4-6 48th Annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival Downtown Fernandina Beach, www.shrimpfestival.com
The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival includes dozens of food booths featuring shrimp specialties. Each year, the festival is held in the historic Downtown Centre Street business district in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. The event is a lively mixture of fun including an annual Pirate Parade and features juried fine arts and crafts show, antiques, live entertainment, Southwest Airlines Kids Korner, contests, pirates and free admission.
May 4-6 Gamble Rogers Folk Festival St. Augustine Amphitheatre, www.gamblerogersfest.org
The festival will open Friday night by meshing with the First Friday Art Walk in downtown St. Augustine. Art Walk features an open-door tour of local art galleries beginning at 5 pm. On Saturday, live performances from 1-10 pm at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. During daylight hours, three stages run concurrently with evening headliner show on the main stage. Sunday will feature local live entertainers.
May 11-13 Purple Hatter’s Ball Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak, www.purplehattersball.com
The fifth annual Purple Hatter’s Ball returns to honor the memory of longtime friend Rachel Hoffman. This three-day festival features a diverse lineup of musicians, including Break Science with Chali 2’Na, The Heavy Pets, Catfish Alliance, Earphunk and many more. Three-day festival tickets are only $45 until April 1 and $60 beginning April 2 until gates open, when tickets will cost $75. Weekend passes include music, three nights of camping and all taxes and fees. Sunday only tickets will also be available for $30 at the gate. Cabins and golf cart rentals are also available.
May 12 Celebrate Asia Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, www.celebrateasia.net/
Do something interesting for Mother’s Day weekend! Taste Asian foods, see Asian celebs, dance and more!
May 18-19 Swamptown Getdown Music Festival Okefenokee Fairgrounds, Waycross, GA www.stgdfest.com
A very eclectic and talented lineup is taking shape for the 2nd Annual Swamptown Getdown Music Festival. Confirmed acts include: Col. Bruce Hampton and the Pharaoh Gummitt, Ian Dunlop, American Anodyne, Betsy Franck and the BareKnuckle Band, Chroma, Dangfly, Droppers, Feral Swine Experiment, Fester Hagood, the Fritz, the Heap, Honey Blue, Jack Cadillac, Lazy Lightning, the Other Guys, the Redbugs, Saltwater Grass, Sweet Medicine, Traveling Riverside Band, and Uncle Dave and the Younguns. On-site RV and primitive camping is available, children 12 and under get in free, $10 discount for students/military personnel with valid school/military ID. An advance two-day festival pass will only set you back $35.
May 19-20 The Zellwood Sweet Corn Festival Zellwood, FL, www.zellwoodcornfestival.com
Enjoy outdoor fun for everyone in the form of corn-eating contests, live entertainment from well-known country singers and bands, arts and crafts, carnival rides, games and, of course, all-you-can-eat sweet corn! The three-day Zellwood Sweet Corn Festival draws more than 25,000 people. Zellwood is located northwest of Orlando on U.S. 441. $10 in advance, $12 at gate, $5 for kids 6-12, children 5 and under free.
May 25-27 Jacksonville Jazz Festival Main Street, Downtown Jacksonville and various locales, www.jaxjazzfest.com
Friday night at the 2012 Jacksonville Jazz Festival will mark the beginning of incredible jazz performances on multiple stages in the heart of downtown Jacksonville. The Wine Down Tasting Experience and the Art in the Heart downtown juried art show and sale will also be open, along with jazz exhibits and displays to start the festival weekend.
May 25-27 Florida Folk Festival Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, White Springs, www.floridastateparks.org/stephenfoster/events.cfm
Enjoy the diversity of Florida’s culture and history when its residents share their food, music, dance, stories, crafts and work life. Visit a Seminole family camp, watch the state fiddling contest and savor ethnic food and church supper favorites. Pets are not allowed. Advance tickets: one-day adult, $20; weekend adult, $40; child day (good all weekend) $4. Advance tickets available for purchase March 15-May 20. Gate tickets: one-day adult, $25; weekend adult, $50; child day (good all weekend) $5. For more information, call (386) 397-4331.