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Atlanta food and wine festival

Atlanta Food & Wine Festival/Facebook

The tasting tents at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival


Here are the best Southern food festivals to keep you busy all spring and summer long

When the weather is fine you can bet your bottom dollar that we Southerners are out enjoying nature. After suffering through what seemed like an especially long winter, we all deserve to celebrate by basking in the sunshine. Thankfully it seems that the many outdoor food festivals popping up all across the South are in agreement. 

From the beaches of North Carolina to the hills of Arkansas, there is a food festival for us all. These festivals are a great way to enjoy family fun while tasting bite-sized treats from some of the region's most celebrated restaurants and chefs. It doesn't hurt that oftentimes tents set up in advance help to provide some shade and also have boozy cocktails to enjoy as part of the experience. These are our favorite events, state by state:

Magic City Wine Festival (May 11)
Hosted at the incredible Birmingham Zoo, this rain-or-shine event brings together food and cocktails from all across the globe. This festival is unique in that spa services are also ordered at certain tents. Tickets can be purchased in advance and at the door but keep in mind that anyone planning to attend must be 21 and older. 
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Annual Strawberry Festival (April 26-27)
Grab the kids and your tide stain remover pins because this one is going to to get messy. Held annually in Cabot, Arkansas, this festival is one residents look forward to all year long. The festival celebrates perhaps spring's most beloved fruit — the strawberry. It's in season during this period and food vendors all play homage to it in one way or another. There is live music and rides for the kiddies. Head on down for a good time. 
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Bite NW Arkansas (June 26-28)
This three-day-long food festival is all about celebrating the best and brightest in northwest Arkansas. The festival celebrates the absolute best best cuisines, restaurants and chefs in the region. Unlike other outdoor food events happening around town, this festival is adults-only, so leave the kiddos at home. 
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Tampa Bay Seafood & Music Festival (April 26-28)
When you think about, it isn't fresh chilled seafood and music the perfect pairing? If you agree, Tampa has a festival just for you. While this event is mainly to celebrate fresh fish, there are also meat and vegetarian dishes available. There will also be vendor tents which festival attendees can float through and shop for homemade textiles and trinkets. 
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South Florida Taco Battle & Craft Beer Fest (April 27)
What more could you possibly want out of a warm weather festival than a battle between tacos and craft beer? According to the event website, "This annual battle brings together local restaurants and craft breweries for a challenge that will showcase the best taco culinary skills and beer masters of South Florida." General admission tickets are free but if you're looking to eat tacos and try some cocktails and beer, consider springing for the VIP tickets, which include all tastings. 
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Atlanta Food & Wine Festival (May 30-June 2)
The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival brings together some of the best culinary talent in the entire South. This four-day event features expert led panels, curated dinners and, of course, massive tasting tents. Big name alcohol brands such as Maker's Mark and Don Julio Tequila will be in attendance as well to make sure attendees are well supplied with delicious cocktails. 
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The Kentucky Derby Festival Waterfront Jam at Kroger's Fest-a-Ville (April 25-May 3)
Down in Louisville, Kroger grocery store is getting in on the festival action with its Kroger's Kentucky Derby Festival. The event is an annual celebration of food, music and good old fashioned fun. The festival kicks off April 25 and goes through May 3 giving everyone ample opportunity to get in on the experience. With over 100 food and drink vendors expected to attend, you're in for one heck of a festival ride. 
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Baton Rouge Soul Food Festival (May 25-26)
This second annual two day event is sure to be a belt-testing good time. For two solid days, festival attendees can feast on homemade Southern cooking — with Louisiana flair, of course. This event also happens to be family-friendly and full of entertainment for everyone.  
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NOLA Crawfish Festival (April 29-May 1)
If you ever doubted your need to visit New Orleans, consider using its infamous crawfish festival as an incentive. The fourth annual NOLA Crawfish is presented by NOLA Crawfish King Chris "Shaggy" Davis and takes place April 29 through May 1 at Central City BBQ. It's expected that over 6,000 lbs of crawfish will be boiled in anticipation of the crowds.  There will also be a crawfish cook off, an eating competition and, of course, live music.  
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Natchez Food & Wine Festival (July 26-28)
After 17 successful years, the Natchez Food and Wine Festival has become one of the most anticipated events in all of Mississippi. Here some of the region's most talented chefs and food experts gather to celebrate good food, wine and live entertainment. This three-day event has been known to sell out, so be sure to get tickets as far in advance as possible.  
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North Carolina
Wilmington Wine & Food Festival (May 16-19)
The Wilmington Wine & Food Festival is all about bringing people together. From chefs to wine and spirit experts to the general public, everyone is invited to come together to celebrate all the things people love about Wilmington. The festival provides a diverse range of food and beverage experiences which help to teach people about the unique culture in the area.
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Taste of Music City Festival (June 1)

This all-inclusive food tasting event gives event goers the opportunity to take a "Tour of Nashville" and enjoy tastings from some of the most popular restaurants and chefs in the area. Festival attendees also have the chance to watch live demonstrations from some of the city's top talent. Get good, generous beverage samples and much more at this event.
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Photo Credits:
Strawberry festival/Facebook
Tampa Bay Seafood festival/Website 
Atlanta food and wine/Facebook 
NOLA crawfish/Facebook 
Wilmington food festival/Instagram

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Ryan Shepard is the editor-in-chief at Southern Kitchen. Though originally from Los Angeles, she has lived in Atlanta since early 2017 and cannot imagine calling any other city home (except maybe New Orleans). Before joining Southern Kitchen's staff, Ryan worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on public policy issues. When she's not at work, she enjoys hunting down the best Mexican food in the city and drinking whiskey, obviously.