Food Festival USA
Listen up, food junkies and festival fanatics, this month’s getaway takes you on a whirlwind tour of some of the country’s finest culinary celebrations.
Most Americans appreciate good food and great fun, so it’s no big surprise that food festivals are such a frequent occurrence all across the country. Just pick a state, and the chances are good that a host of different food festivals occur there in cities large and small. Finding them is easy; the real challenge is choosing the perfect one to satisfy your appetite. Frankly, it can be overwhelming, so here are a few appetizers to get you started.
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Newport Seafood and Wine Festival,
Feb. 21-24, 2013
Oregon’s largest winter festival, the Newport Seafood and Wine Festival, is the original and claims to be the biggest and the best in the Northwest. It started back in 1978 and now showcases more than 80 wineries each year. Held during the last full weekend in February, this central Oregon coastal event serves up more than just wine. Hundreds of booths are on hand serving culinary treats alongside the works of local artists and craftsmen. This year’s festival celebrated 35 years and attracted more than 17,000 visitors. It also added an extra day to the typically three-day event, providing a special evening for early ticket-buyers. seafoodandwine.com
Feast of San Gennaro,
Sept. 13-23, 2012
In the early 20th century, hundreds of thousands of Italian immigrants settled in the lower Manhattan neighborhood known today as Little Italy. That neighborhood is now home to the Feast of San Gennaro, an annual celebration of faith highlighting Italian culture and cuisine. This 11-day event turns 86 this year and expects to draw more than 1 million people from all over the globe with its festive ambiance of daily parades, religious processions and live music. Most of Little Italy’s local restaurants participate in the event as well as more than 300 street vendors selling food and souvenirs. sangennaro.org
Yarmouth Clam Festival,
July 20-22, 2012
Each year, Yarmouth, Maine, swells to 15 times its size during the Yarmouth Clam Festival. This year’s festival is expected to attract more than 100,000 visitors. In addition to live music, the popular Clam Festival Parade and an expanded art show, the 2012 agenda includes the Maine State Clam Shucking Contest, the Firefighter Muster Competition and a number of race events including road, bicycle and canoe/kayak races. The best part is that admission is free, and all of the proceeds earned by the food booths and parking lots support local non-profit organizations.
Maine Lobster Festival,
Aug. 1-5, 2012
While in Maine, stop off at the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland to celebrate Maine’s most scrumptious crustacean. This world famous festival, 65 years and running, includes local fine art, live entertainment and, of course, lots and lots of lobster. In fact, last year’s festival served up almost 20,000 pounds of lobster. And don’t miss the crowning of the Maine Sea Goddess, the Lobster Crate Race or the 10k Road Race, which includes a barefoot runners division. mainelobsterfestival.com
National Buffalo Wing Festival,
Sept. 1-2, 2012
You’re not a bona fide chicken wing aficionado unless you’ve attended the National Buffalo Wing Festival in Buffalo, N.Y. Inspired by the Bill Murray movie Osmosis Jones, this first-of-its-kind festival has served 137 tons of wings since it started in 2002. This year’s festival includes numerous eating and cooking contests, a beauty pageant, live entertainment and more than 35 participating restaurants offering more variations of this tiny treat than should be allowed. buffalowing.com
Austin Chocolate Festival, TBA
The Austin Chocolate Festival is a Texas chocoholic’s paradise showcasing local restaurants, bakeries, chocolatiers and patisseries, all competing for top honors such as best truffle and best brownies. In addition to helping judge each contest, visitors can sample and purchase chocolate treats from participating vendors. But don’t sweat the consequences of this chocolate-craving indulgence. This event works hard to raise awareness and money for multiple sclerosis and breast cancer. Unfortunately, due to scheduling issues this year, your next opportunity to attend the annual festival will be in 2013. austinchocolatefestival.com
Oct. 5-7, 2012
German heritage runs deep in Fredericksburg, Texas. So it’s no surprise that the residents celebrate every October with brats, beer and polka. During Oktoberfest, the streets of Fredericksburg teem with food vendors serving up German and Mexican-American cuisine, hill-country artists selling their fine art, and, of course, lots of tasty brews from far and wide. This year’s menu includes more than 30 varieties of beer including Texan, domestic and import beers. And don’t miss the Chicken Dance Around the Square or any of the other fun activities that are sure to foster a spirit of Gemütlichkeit in the whole family. This year’s Oktoberfest marks the celebration’s 32nd year and supports student scholarships and local arts. oktoberfestinfbg.com
Sept. 20-23, 2012
This year’s Addison Oktoberfest is expected to fill Addison Circle Park with more than 60,000 people enjoying the German custom. This local event includes a yodeling contest, bier-barrel bowling and traditional German fare. The Addison Oktoberfest prides itself on serving Spaten and Franziskaner, some of the very same beer served at Munich’s Oktoberfest in Germany. addisontexas.net/events/oktoberfest
Rahr & Sons Oktoberfest 5K Run/Walk,
Sept. 9, 2012
Raise your stein at this year’s Rahr & Sons Oktoberfest 5K Run/Walk on Sept. 9 in Fort Worth, benefiting Trinity Habitat for Humanity. The event includes lots of German beer, food and entertainment with awards for the best male and female beer bellies. rahroktoberfest.com
Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival in New Orleans, TBA
The Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival in New Orleans is a relatively young affair, turning 6 this year, but it’s already one of the area’s most popular attractions. During the festival, the French Quarter swells with booth after booth of mouth-watering Cajun cuisine, cooking exhibitions and local arts and crafts. And with three separate performance stages, there is plenty of dancing music to go around. This year’s event showcased 21 musical groups including Cajun music legend D.L. Menard and Grammy-nominated C.J. Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band.
And if that’s still not enough, the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival typically coincides with the French Market’s Creole Tomato Festival, an event offering more food and fun with the added flavor of, you guessed it, tomatoes. This festival includes eating contests and cooking demonstrations. jazzandheritage.org, frenchmarket.org/events
Great American Beer Festival, Oct. 11-13, 2012
The largest and longest-running beer fest in the country, the Great American Beer Festival in Denver turns 30 this year. This mile high event hosts 466 breweries, serving more American beers than any other festival. That’s 2,375 beers from 134 different styles including fruit wheat beer, chocolate beer, American-style Brett ale and international-style pale ale. Around 50,000 attendees are expected this year, so purchase your tickets today. Last year’s festival sold out within one week.
Great Taste of the Midwest, August 11, 2012
More than 100 breweries and brewpubs come together in Madison, Wis., for the second longest-running beer fest in the country, the Great Taste of the Midwest. Here in the beer capital of the Midwest, you can select from more than 500 different beers and lots of tasty food. Then sit back and listen to wandering minstrels play their instruments while you bask in the beautiful lakeside scenery of Olin-Turville Park. mhtg.org/great-taste-of-the-midwest
Texas Craft Brewers Festival, Oct. 6, 2012
Austin is home to the Texas Craft Brewers Festival celebrating Texas beer at its very best. This outdoor event takes place at the Fiesta Gardens Complex near the banks of the Colorado River. In addition to a wide variety of Texas brew, expect lots of local cuisine, live music and beer education sessions and good old Austin fun. Proceeds go to support Austin Sunshine Camps.