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Fun things to do in the South

Illustration by James Gulliver Hancock

A curated list of the best upcoming events in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.


Johnson County Peach Festival

FREE! July 18–20 One of Arkansas’ longest-running festivals pays homage to the delicious fuzzy fruit. Johnson County’s courthouse square becomes peach central for vendors, live music, and peach-centric competitions like the cobbler bake-off and pie-eating and peach pit–spitting contests. Clarksville.

Bluegrass and Fried Chicken Festival

August 23–24 Mountain music and fried chicken are venerated at this festival held at Ozark Folk Center State Park. Dine on crispy fried chicken between shows by award-winning bluegrass artists that include a Friday evening concert, a Saturday matinee, and a Saturday evening performance at Ozark Highlands Theater. Festival tickets, which include admission to the Folk Center’s craft village, range from $22 to $118; chicken dinners sold separately. Mountain View.

Bikes, Blues & BBQ

FREE! September 18–21 Riding for a cause defines Bikes, Blues & BBQ, one of the country’s largest nonprofit family-friendly motorcycle rallies. Proceeds benefit disadvantaged women, children, and families in northwest Arkansas. Scenic rides covering more than 100 miles are complemented by outstanding blues music and barbecue that you can enjoy whether you’re a rider or not. Vendor areas and some concerts are free while others charge a fee. Rogers and Eureka Springs.


Madisonville Old-Fashioned 4th of July Celebration

FREE! July 4 Held downtown on the banks of the Tchefuncte River, this Independence Day party runs from 10 a.m. through dusk featuring family-friendly fun. Enjoy kids’ games, a pie bake-off, a horseshoe tournament, a watermelon-eating contest, and a cornhole tournament. All the festivities lead up to the fireworks show over the river at around 8:45 p.m. Madisonville.

Delcambre Shrimp Festival

August 14–18 A small town that’s big on shrimp, Delcambre honors the area’s shrimping industry with Cajun fun during this annual affair. Come hungry and savor shrimp cooked many ways. Also, enjoy the shrimp cook-off, nightly music, and a Sunday boat parade and blessing of the fleet. Admission is free except on Friday and Saturday, when the gate fee is $10. Delcambre.

Natchitoches Meat Pie Festival

FREE! September 13–14 A celebration of Natchitoches’ culinary specialty, the festival offers the chance to sample meat pies from area chefs and vendors who line Front Street and the riverbank. Try different versions of the flaky crescent-shaped handheld delicacy. Other weekend activities include a brew fest, a poker run for motorcyclists, food trucks, and live music. Natchitoches.


Choctaw Indian Fair

July 10–13 The Choctaw Nation welcomes visitors to experience its traditions, art, and music during the 74th Choctaw Indian Fair. Highlights include Choctaw stickball games, dance performances, artisan crafts, foods, and contemporary and traditional Choctaw music. Adult single-day tickets are $12; a season pass is $20. Choctaw Nation Reservation, Philadelphia.

Watermelon Carnival

FREE! August 2–3 Attention, competitive eaters: Come to Water Valley’s Watermelon Carnival, crowned in 2019 by Guinness World Records for having the most people eating watermelon at the same time (745). Activities include parades, a street dance, entertainment, arts and crafts, food vendors, a barbecue contest, a seed-spitting contest, and plenty of ice-cold watermelon slices. Water Valley.

Mississippi Book Festival

FREE! September 14 Buy a book, meet authors, and explore all things bookish during Mississippi’s literary lawn party on the Capitol grounds. Activities also take place in the Capitol, on its surrounding streets, and in nearby Galloway Church. In its 10th year, the festival features a marketplace, giveaways, book signings, author panel discussions, food vendors, and family activities. Jackson.

FREE! indicates free admission to the event, but additional fees may be required. Be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol.

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