Rooster Walk Music and Arts Festival, Red Wing Roots Music Festival and FloydFest are three of my favorites. It seems Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine agrees naming two of the Virginia festivals as well as Black Mountain, North Carolina’s LEAF among 2016’s top family-friendly festivals to attend in the South. And FloydFest was named among the most adventurous. What are your favorites?
From the magazine:
Bring the Whole Family
Sure, bringing the kids to a huge festival with thick crowds might seem like an overwhelming proposition. But fortunately the Blue Ridge has some intimate musical gatherings that feature top-notch line-ups to please mom and dad while also holding plenty of activities to keep the little ones happy. If you’re inclined to make it a family affair, check out one of these kid-friendly fests.
LEAF (Lake Eden Arts Festival) May 12-15; Black Mountain, N.C.
The Lake Eden Arts Festival—better known as LEAF—goes above and beyond when it comes to keeping kids entertained at a multi-band music festival. A few years ago the fest, nestled within the mountainous Camp Rockmont, expanded its offerings for youngsters with the addition of eight Family Adventure Villages that include everything from puppetry and hands-on nature programs to art projects and organized games. Add swimming and paddling in Lake Eden and the kids will certainly be tuckered and ready for some tent slumber. In addition to the family fun, LEAF features one of the most diverse arrays of artistic offerings of any fest in the region: live music, dance workshops, healing arts, and much more. There’s also the music, which covers sounds from around the globe. Acts this year include Shovels and Rope, Juan De Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All-Stars, Fatoutmata Diawara, and Sarah Jarosz.
Rooster Walk Music and Arts Festival May 26-29; Martinsville, Va.
This homegrown festival recently got some new digs, moving last year to the scenic Pop’s Farm near Martinsville. Attendance has increased as fest organizers continue to add bigger national acts to the Rooster Walk line-up, but this is still a relatively small event with plenty of open space and a dedicated kid’s area to keep the kiddos happy. Acts on the bill this year include Lettuce, the Sam Bush Band, Perpetual Groove, and the Revivalists. Bonus: This festival has a heartfelt purpose, created to honor two Martinsville locals who passed away. Proceeds from your ticket dollars go to a high school scholarship program created in their honor, as well as other regional charities.
Red Wing Roots Music Festival July 8-10; Mt. Solon, Va.
Red Wing takes place in the relaxed confines of Natural Chimneys Park, a comfortable campground in the shadow of towering limestone rock formations. The festival, located in the Shenandoah Valley near Harrisonburg, was started by lauded string band and area natives the Steel Wheels, who curate a carefully selected line-up of Americana and acoustic music acts that perform on multiple stages in very close proximity. This year the fest will be headlined by Dawes, Shovels and Rope, the Lone Bellow, and the Steep Canyon Rangers. “We want music that draws from traditions of old country, folk, singer-songwriter, Cajun and bluegrass—what you would consider the roots of American music,” Steel Wheels front man Trent Wagler said about crafting the festival’s line-up. “We’re working hard to find great music that defines that term for us.” While the festival’s musical ambitions are broad, attendance is intentionally kept relatively small to accommodate families. Red Wing also has an impressive slate of kid’s activities, including a Kinfolk Stage devoted to music for little ones.
Add some adventure
FloydFest July 27-31; Floyd, Va.
Another popular event that’s recently upped its adventure game is FloydFest, an eclectic roots music carnival that takes place just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Floyd, Va. Since its inception back in 2002, FloydFest has become known for bridging the gap between Appalachian traditions and the melting pot of independent roots music from the around the rest of the world. On nine stages big headliners like Greg Allman, Warren Haynes, Bruce Hornsby, Greensky Bluegrass, and Fela Kuti perform alongside up and comers like Head for the Hills and West African music act Selasee & the Fafa Family. Set on a mountain plateau that’s surrounded by some of Virginia’s most scenic terrain, FloydFest organizers now offer plenty of ways to explore this pristine open space. In addition to a 5K trail race, the fest also has a nine-hole disc golf course and onsite singletrack on the Moonstomper Mountain Bike Trail. There’s also an organized off-site 19-mile ride, the Belcher Mountain Beat Down, which features 1,600 feet of climb and offers shuttle service back to the festival, as well as organized paddling trips on the Little River.