Thinking of taking a road trip this summer? Instead of racing to pricy music festivals or paying entrance to attractions and monuments, consider traveling to one (or more) summer food festivals taking place around the country. Small towns and big cities alike are throwing celebrations honoring seasonal produce, crops, and cuisines that have put their town on the map.
Spanning from one day to one week, food festivals bring together residents and visitors to celebrate local food and commerce. Pageants, parades, competitive eating contests, and record breaking foods are just a couple of activities to expect. You’ll come for the food vendors whose stalls will line the festival's path, enticing you with the festival's namesake, whether that be barbecue or blackberries.
Still not convinced? Let's break it down:
You consider yourself a lover of food. A gourmand. A glutton. In 2012, you wore the term “foodie” like a badge of honor on social media pages. Zagat ratings and Yelp reviews are sacrosanct, and friends and family members are always asking you about the latest food trends and the newest restaurants. So why wouldn’t you attend a festival highlighting some of America's best eats?
Pack some snacks, fill the tank, and get yourself to the nearest food festival before the season ends. Let your stomachs guide the way.
1. Pageland Watermelon Festival
July 17-18, Pageland, South Carolina
A list of festivals would not be complete without a watermelon festival — summer's favorite fruit. Pageland, South Carolina, also known as the Watermelon Capital of the world, celebrates the juicy melon in a two-day event featuring amusement rides, live music, pageants, and a watermelon seed spitting contest.
2. Maine Lobster Festival
July 29-August 2, Rockland, Maine
If you've only ever had lobster at a certain place renowned for their cheddar biscuits, you are missing out on lobster in its most natural state and habitat: Maine. The Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, Maine is a four-hour drive from Boston, and features the world's greatest lobster cooker, a lobster crate race, and a parade. And if you've never seen a Maine Sea Goddess coronation, well they've got that too.
3. The Mendota Sweet Corn Festival
August 6-9, Mendota, Illinois
If it ain't broke don't fix it. Fify tons of corn is consumed by visitors at the annual Mendota Sweet Corn Festival, now in its 68th year. Hot and buttered corn is the main attraction, and is served free of charge to the 60,000 visitors who stop by every year. Afterwards, don't miss the crowning of the 2015 Sweet Corn Queen.
4. Austin Ice Cream Festival
August 8, Austin, Texas
The Austin Ice Cream Festival is an annual ice cream celebration benefiting local charities. Expect live entertainment, games, a homemade ice cream making contest, a popsicle stick sculpture contest, and of course, an ice cream eating contest.
5. Atlanta Bar-B-Q Festival
August 14-15, Atlanta, Georgia
Maybe you're the self-proclaimed grill master among friends and family. That's cool, but your game is nil compared to the pit masters at the Atlanta Bar-B-Q Festival serving up barbecue in a variety of styles: Texas, Memphis, St.Louis, Carolina, and Kentucky. Get ready to grub.
6. Bremerton Blackberry Festival
September 5-7, Bremerton, Washington
Blackberries are often the forgotten berries, overshadowed by strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. The Bremerton Blackberry Festival celebrates this deserving crop in a three-day festival featuring car shows, live music, a beer garden, and the festival's own blackberry wine.
7. The Vendy Awards
September 12, New York, New York
If you're rolling your eyes because food trucks are so 2011, you're missing out on all the fun. The 11th annual Vendy Awards in New York City is the place to be if you want to consume a variety of different foods, drinks, and cuisines from some of the best food trucks and vendors in the city. As an attendee, you'll also get the chance to vote and determine this year's winner.
8. Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival
September 12-13, San Francisco, California
Looking for a more grown-up food festival? The Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival featuring chef demonstrations, a "chocolate school," and wine and chocolate tastings, will leave you feeling fancy. Of course, if your inner kid does come out, there's always the opportunity to participate in the Ghirardelli "Earthquake" sundae eating contest.