When planning activities and family outings, it's tempting to fall back on the usual staples—and while there's nothing wrong with going to the movies or a day at the amusement park, why not think outside the box and be a tourist in your own backyard?
There are a huge number of seasonal produce festivals all across America, but the South particularly excels at celebrating its local farmers, growers, and cuisine. What can we say? We love food, and we know how to party! No matter the season, no matter the region, there's a unique, exciting gourmet gala ready to tantalize your taste buds! What are you waiting for?
Greater New Orleans: The Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival
You can't step outside your front door in New Orleans without stumbling upon an unexpected celebration. The city and the parishes surrounding it are hosts to a variety of events themed around seasonal produce, from the Bywater Mirliton Festival in November to the Creole Tomato Festival, which takes place in June. However, since 1972, families have been BERRY excited to head to "The Strawberry Capital of the World"—a tiny town in Tangipahoa Parish that hosts the annual Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival!
Folks can enjoy live music, take part in a strawberry eating competition, witness the coronation of the Strawberry King and Queen, and browse local arts, crafts, and tasty treats. Kids will love the traditional games and activities, such as the sack race and egg toss—and of course, there are plenty of rides for bigger kids. (You might even spot some inflatable attractions!) Best of all? Entry is 100% free!
Jacksonville, Florida: The Northeast Florida Veg Fest
Floridians love their food! Whether you want to indulge your patriotic palate at the Great American Burger Fest or sample Caribbean cuisine at the Jerk Food Festival, the Sunshine State has something for everyone. But for the health gurus amongst us, you can't beat The Northeast Florida Veg Fest, which takes place every March in scenic Jacksonville.
In addition to the usual games, rides, and seasonal produce stalls, this event hosts wellness-focused cooking demos from organizations like Food for Life and Kailo Nutrition. There's youth yoga for the kids, and sustainable art/craft projects mentored by Girls Gone Green. An awesome day out for eco-conscious families!
Memphis, Tennessee: The Big Scoop Ice Cream Festival
There are plenty of health-focused events in Memphis; the Plant-Based Food Festival and India Fest to name two. But save room for dessert, because the Big Scoop Ice Cream Festival is one you won't want to miss! Local dairy farmers and artisanal sugar-smiths are on hand to share their wares, so why not try an unusual flavor, like pine nut from La Michoacana or spiced chai latte from Menchies? The $12 entry fee gets you all you can eat.
Houston, Texas: VegFest
With a wealth of events dedicated to food and drink, you'll never be at a loss for how to satisfy your inner gourmand when you visit Houston. This southern city seems to host some kind of party almost every weekend, with a strong emphasis on locally sourced food and beverages to keep everyone in the family happy.
VegFest, hosted by the Vegan Society for Peace, is a family-friendly, clean eating bonanza, focused on promoting an ethical, sustainable lifestyle for all. With vegan food demos, seasonal produce samples, animal rights and veggie lifestyle speakers, and of course, plenty of green crafts for the kids, it's never been easier to get your family jazzed about eating their vegetables!
This is just a sampling of the huge number of seasonal produce and beverage events that take place throughout the South, and nationwide, every month of the year! So instead of putting on that Frozen DVD for the millionth time this weekend, check out local events in your area and enjoy the bounty that Mother Nature provides. Fresh seasonal produce has never been so much fun.