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Chase the Music

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There’s an abundance of varied music festivals in the Carolinas throughout the year. Here are six to add to your 2020 road trip calendar!
Jazz Festival | Wilmington, N.C. | Jan. 23-25
Considered one of the largest traditional jazz festivals in the southeast, the Jazz Festival draws artists from across the globe. Performers from Italy and Australia join other artists like Veronica Swift, who performs with the Emmet Cohen Trio. This is a return visit for Veronica — she attended the festival as a child when her parents performed. Evening concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. and take place in the ballroom of the Hotel Ballast.
South Carolina Chamber Music Festival | Florence, S.C. | Feb. 24-29
Inspired by years of collaborating with classical musicians, Francis Marion University’s associate professor of music, Dr. Paolo Andre Gualdi, created this festival to showcase a variety of chamber music. This week-long series of events features artists from China, Bulgaria, Italy, Serbia and other countries (as well as the U.S.). Performances take place in the school’s Performing Arts Center, specifically the intimate Black Box Theater. The musicians also participate in workshops and master classes throughout the week.
RockyFest | Hiddenite, N.C. | Apr. 18
This one-day festival takes place at Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area and features a diverse mix of live music — Americana, country, bluegrass and other styles. Other activities include trail races, rock climbing, nature hikes, games and an artisan fair. Enjoy a sampling of treats from local food vendors. Guests are also encouraged to bring their own instruments and participate in a jam session in the Pickin’ Tent.
MerleFest | Wilkesboro, N.C. | Apr. 23-26
The festival began as a one-time fundraising event in 1988 for the Wilkes Community College garden, and has evolved into North Carolina’s biggest music festival. Created by legendary musician Doc Watson, MerleFest was named to honor his son, who had died in a tragic tractor accident three years prior. Some 80,000 people attend each year to enjoy a unique mix of musical styles — bluegrass, Americana, blues, Cajun, jazz, Celtic and more. Children’s activities, local vendors and an open jam area are also on hand.
Spoleto Festival | Charleston, S.C. | May 22-June 7
In its 44th season, the Spoleto Festival USA has earned an international reputation as one of the south’s finest performing arts festivals. It was founded in 1977 by Gian Carlo Menotti, who hoped to establish a counterpart to the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy. For over two weeks, the festival showcases more than 140 dance, theater, music and other artistic performances and events. This season will premiere a new full-length opera based on the life and autobiography of Omar Ibn Said, an enslaved Muslim-American man who was brought to Charleston in 1807.
Ol’ Front Porch Music Festival | Oriental, N.C. | Oct. 2-4
The charming harbor town of Oriental is filled with the sound of down-home music when more than 20 local and regional bands perform on front porches and lawns.
Guests can peruse the Village Artisans Market or sample local cuisine in the Food Park. Thanks to a partnership with local restaurants, the festival’s Food Park offers more than your standard deep-fried “fair food.” It highlights the best of what’s on the menu at Oriental restaurants, making it a sure bet for foodies.
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Take Go Magazine with you on your music festival road trip and you could win a $300 gift certificate! Visit AAA.com/GoContests for details.

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