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  • Writer's pictureCheré Dastugue Coen

Weird Southern Spring Festivals

This time of year, Southerners celebrate all good things. And we mean everything!

The flowers are blooming, the weather’s warming up and our thoughts turn to festivals. And boy, does the South have its share. Louisiana alone has 400-plus! To whet your appetite we’ve spotlighted a few of the weird ones.

Hot Slaw and Art Y’all, April 6, Cleveland, Tennessee

The fun happens from noon to 8 p.m. in downtown Cleveland with live music, artist exhibitors, pop-up street performances, family games, contests, food vendors and yes, hot slaw! Hot slaw is a unique side dish found in Cleveland and environs, consisting of slaw with mustard, mayo and a secret sauce concoction. 

All-You-Can-Eat Crawfish Cook-Off, April 20, Slidell, Louisiana

Crawfish are a seafood staple on menus throughout coastal Louisiana in the spring, including in St. Tammany Parish, affectionately referred to as “The Northshore” of New Orleans. Slidell’s Cook-Off is considered the largest single-day crawfish cook-off in the world, with more than 40,000 pounds of crawfish and 17,500 pounds of fixings boiled by more than 60 teams. If you go: Onsite admission is $45, free for children ages 12 and younger. Tickets purchased in advance are $40. 


Dollywood’s Flower & Food Festival, April 19-June 9, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Dolly Parton’s namesake theme park in East Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains welcomes spring with its annual Dollywood’s Flower & Food Festival, which features exhilarating rides, entertainment, spring blooms, fresh flavors and more. Guests can see larger-than-life “Mosaicultures” crafted from thousands of living plants and 500,000 brilliant blooms throughout the park. They also can enjoy a sampling of garden-fresh bites and refreshing sips that highlight the tastes of spring in the Smokies.

During the festival, Dollywood will introduce a newly imagined section of its park called the Dolly Parton Experience. Opening May 24, the multi-faceted experience housed in multiple buildings includes exhibits that span Parton’s unparalleled career, a look at the inspiration for and results of her biggest dreams, the importance of her family and even a curated exhibit that highlights Dolly’s signature style through the years. A new show, “Heidi Parton’s Kin & Friends,” will also debut in the Dreamsong Theater and feature Parton’s niece, Heidi Parton, and a cast signing songs and telling stories that only family would know.


If you go: Festival entry is included in regular park admission, which costs $92 for ages 10-61; $82 for ages 4-9 and 62 and older; and free for kids ages 3 and younger.

Interstate Mullet Toss & Gulf Coast’s Greatest Beach Party, April 26-28, on the Florida/Alabama state line, where Orange Beach, Alabama, meets the outskirts of Pensacola, Florida

People travel from across the globe to participate in this legendary event that is centered around one fish: the mullet. The Mullet Toss is a fish-throwing contest from Florida into Alabama, at a legendary roadhouse that sits right on the state line. This event was started more than 35 years ago by one of the Flora-Bama’s owners, Joe Gilchrist. After a trip out west, where he watched a cow chipping contest, Joe wanted to bring an event of similar energy back home with him. He chose to toss mullet, one of the region’s indigenous fish species. Fifty of his friends dragged a cooler on the beach behind the bar and tossed some mullet for the first year the event was held. The event has grown to include a weekend-long party with fun activities, music and food.


If you go: Admission to Flora-Bama daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. is $10 for ages 21 and older, $15 for ages 16 to 20, and free for ages 15 and younger. It is $20 to toss a mullet, inclusive of a T-shirt. Proceeds go to local charities.


Cabbage, Potato and Bacon Festival, April 27-28, Hastings, Florida

This festival of three food groups celebrates the town’s agricultural roots. The Taste of Hastings will be from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday where festival-goers can sample an array of dishes prepared by local chefs, including Chefs Hari Pulapaka, Genie McNally, Michael Lugo, Ned Pollack, Ellie Schultze, Dejuan Roy, Sebastian Sikora and Rebecca Reed. Each chef will craft their own plate using cabbage, potatoes and bacon. Tickets are $35 for general admission and $100 for the VIP experience and may be purchased online at

Other festival events include Sunday’s American Culinary Federation (ACF) Sanctioned Cooking Competition, where three accomplished chefs will showcase their skill and artistry using any or all of the three main ingredients; the Spud Run and Cabbage Crawl Fun Run on Saturday; a pageant from newborns to 23 years of age and much more.


British Festival, May 4-5, Rugby, Tennessee

Historic Rugby, founded in the 1880s, honors its British origins with food, tours of the historic buildings, live music and more. There will be performances by the Rugby Cornet Band on each of the festival days.


CaveJam, May 24-26, Pelham, Tennessee

This new three-day camping festival features headliner The String Cheese Incident and a line-up of bands both above and below ground at The Caverns, a world-renowned natural destination for live music in Grundy County, Tennessee. Yes, the bands perform in a cave! For CaveJam, choose from a variety of VIP camping packages and climate-controlled yurts, luxury tents and more.

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