Knoxville was not always a festive town. In fact, if you weren’t partial to funnel cakes and saw-blade art, then you might have found yourself without much to do. Now there are so many festivals in the area that’s it nearly impossible for the human mind to contain them all. So we’ve done it for you! (You can also check out our guide to regional festivals here.)
by Kevin Ridder
Dogwood Arts Festival
Dates: All April (the Market Square festival is April 29-May 1)
Location: All over town
What It’s Celebrating: A Knoxville staple for over 50 years, the Dogwood Arts Festival is back in bloom. With a plethora of events highlighting the artists residing in Knoxville and the natural sights and sounds around us, there’s bound to be a little something for everyone at this year’s festival.
Featured Events: Public art and museum exhibitions open up April 1 to kick off the first week of Dogwood Arts, from which Rhythm N’ Blooms crescendos into the weekend of April 8. During that same weekend, Knoxvillians and visitors alike can enjoy the sights of Knoxville’s Dogwood Trails from their bike seat in Bikes & Blooms. And starting on April 15, you can explore the nationally-recognized Dogwood Trails or take a walk through the open gardens. From April 29 through May 1, the festival comes to a close on Market Square with a weekend-long celebration of East Tennessee’s arts, culture, and natural beauty. However, you can still go for a stroll any time of the year on the Dogwood Arts Walking Trails, so don’t hang up your boots just yet.
A Night of Creativity and Survivorship: Dogwood Arts will be teaming up with Cancer Support Community on April 15 at Cherokee Mills to host Artitude, a fundraising event where patients and event supporters alike will learn how to design and create ebru scarves. And if you can’t make it out to the event, you can donate online at dogwoodarts.com/artitude to help cancer patients craft their own silk scarves. Tickets to attend this fundraising event are $40.
More info: dogwoodarts.com
Rhythm N’ Blooms
Dates: April 8-10
Location: Various locations on Jackson Avenue
Tickets: Weekend passes, from $75 general admission to $150 VIP
What It’s Celebrating: Although Rhythm N’ Blooms had a modest start in 2010, it’s grown exponentially in the past couple of years. As much about the city of Knoxville as it is about music itself, the festival blends a fantastic concert experience with the identity and spirit of East Tennessee’s rich music history.
Featured Entertainment: Mutemath, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Old 97’s, The Mavericks, The Black Cadillacs, and many more.
What’s New This Year: The Old City Courtyard is new to the RnB blueprint this year. Activities include a silent disco, a meet-and-greet with the Yee-Haw Brew Crew, a hammock village, and yoga on Saturday and Sunday. Also new to the program are the Lox Salon Secret Shows. The time and location will be on your schedule, but you’ll have to wait and see who’s playing.
Tips: If you’re strapped for cash but still want to see the shows, sign up to volunteer! For each four-hour shift you complete, you’ll get one free day-pass, in addition to a host of other benefits. Also, some venues have age restrictions, so be sure to take a look at Rhythm N’ Blooms’ website.
More info: rhythmnbloomsfest.com
Dates: April 16, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Location: World’s Fair Park
What It’s Celebrating: Now in its 17th year, Knoxville’s annual EarthFest boasts environmentally friendly fun for the whole family. The event is zero-waste, meaning composting and recycling bins replace the catch-all trash cans.
Featured Entertainment: How About Never, Deadbeat Scoundrels, 3 Mile Smile, Natty’s Common Roots
Other Attractions: Kids of all ages are invited to participate in free Earth-friendly activities and crafts in the Youth Area. For those into green technologies, EarthFest will feature a Clean Fuel Vehicle Showcase with electric vehicles and alternative-fuel technologies.
Tips: On your way in, don’t forget to grab a scavenger-hunt card and get it stamped at different locations around the festival. Not only do you get to learn fun tips and trivia, you could also win some seriously cool prizes. Also, refillable water stations are available free of charge, so bring your own reusable bottle.
More info: knox-earthfest.org
Rossini Festival International Street Fair
Date: April 23, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Location: Downtown Knoxville on Gay Street and Market Square
What It’s Celebrating: Now in its 15th year, the annual Rossini Festival brings ataste of Europe to downtown by celebrating the color, fun, and excitement of opera and international culture. The festival hosts over 800 local and regional multicultural performers on five outdoor stages, in addition to over 100 food/beverage and artisan exhibits. Performers include opera singers from both the Knoxville Opera and the UT Opera, local and regional brass ensembles, jazz bands and dance troupes.
Featured Entertainment: SoulFul Sounds Revue will take the Pilot Flying J Main Stage from 8 to 10 p.m. performing a variety of R&B, soul, and funk hits by such greats as Jackie Wilson, Otis Redding, James Brown, and more.
Tips: Swing by the Constellation Brands Wines & Spirits of the World tasting or the Brewtopia Craft Beer Garden presented by the Casual Pint to explore the brews of the world. And not to worry, the little ones aren’t left out: the YMCA FunZone has plenty of interactive activities for the budding arts aficionado.
More info: knoxvilleopera.com
Scruffy City Film and Music Festival
Dates: April 26 to May 1
Location: Scruffy City Hall, Regal Downtown West Cinema 8
Tickets: General admission $40; VIP $100
What It’s Celebrating: This festival celebrates the musical heart and soul of film, and the composers and artists that make films sing. All films shown will have a special focus on music or sound in some fashion.
Featured Entertainment: A plethora of film awaits you at this year’s festival! Among the films shown will be narrative features and shorts, documentaries, music videos, animated shorts, trailers, webisodes and more; including six days of live music and daily happy hour mixers. Film highlights include the Sundance favorite, Presenting Princess Shaw, as well as the Chet Baker story, Born to be Blue, starring Ethan Hawke. The headlining music act is Ben Sollee.
Tips: Check out the Knoxville Films website to see the full schedule of events.
More info: knoxvillefilms.com/festival411
Southern Tequila and Taco Festival
Date: April 29, 6 to 9 p.m.
Location: Gander Mountain Parking Lot (11501 Parkside Dr.)
Tickets: Online advance: $35; At the gate: $40; VIP: $125; Designated Driver: $10
What It’s Celebrating: Now in its second year, the Southern Tequila and Taco Festival brings in some of the biggest names in tequila alongside the best tacos Knoxville has to offer! And as you satisfy your taco craving, you’ll also be helping a cause: proceeds from the festival go to Remote Area Medical. Founded in 1985, Remote Area Medical strives to bring quality, free healthcare to those who live out of range of hospitals. Largely staffed by volunteers, Remote Area Medical works to empower communities and generate a movement.
Featured Entertainment: Kelsey’s Woods
Tips: This event is 21 and older only.
More info: southerntequilafest.com
Date: April 29
Location: World’s Fair Park
Tickets: Students who opted-in to Student Programs Fee: Free! General Admission: $15 advance, $25 at the gate; VIP: $50 in advance, $60 at the gate
What It’s Celebrating: Vols have been celebrating the last day of spring classes with a bang ever since 2002. What started as a small end-of-semester party has quickly become the largest student-organized event on campus.
Featured Entertainment: Portugal. the Man, Raury, Niykee Heaton, Moon Taxi, The Royal Bangs, Tut.
What’s New This Year: Orange is a shade of green this year at Volapalooza. Powered entirely by renewable energy, Volapalooza will be hosting its largest lineup to date. Plus, with both the main stage and a stage featuring local musicians, a host of activities including a hookah tent, a silent disco, and an assortment of vegan-friendly food vendors, Volapalooza 2016 is shaping up to be bigger than ever.
Tips: Reserve your ticket ahead of time at knoxvilletickets.com to avoid the long lines.
More info: volapalooza.utk.edu
Brewhibition Craft Beer Festival
Date: April 30
Location: Old City Courtyard
Tickets: First Pour (1-6 p.m.): $65; Grand Tasting (2-6 p.m.): $45
What It’s Celebrating: With over 75 craft beers from Tennessee and surrounding areas, Brewhibition is a celebration not only of the end of Prohibition, but of the regional brewers born out of it.
Featured Entertainment: A beer aficionado’s paradise, Knoxville’s Brewhibition features the aforementioned 75+ craft beers, a beer cocktail station, mobile infusers who will be infusing everything from pecan pie to toasted coconut, a mixology bar, and special craft-beer tappings.
Other Attractions: Frog and Toad, and Kukuly and the Gypsy Fuego will provide a jazzy background while you satisfy your thirst. And taking hula-hooping to the next level will be the Beer City Hoopers performing throughout the day in the Old City Courtyard.
Tips: Come in your best 1920s outfit and you’ll have a chance to be voted the 2016 Brewhibition Dame or Sugar Daddy!
More Info: brewhibition.com
Knoxville Stomp Festival of Lost Music
Date: May 5-8
Location: Downtown Knoxville
Tickets: Majority of events: Free! VIP Pass: $78; Sugarlands Speakeasy Party: $35; A Few of My Favorite Recordings featuring Dom Flemons’ Duo: $25
What It’s Celebrating: Knoxville Stomp is a unique festival celebrating the remastering and release of a recently recovered collection of recordings known as the Knoxville Sessions made in Knoxville’s own St. James Hotel in 1929 and 1930. The citywide festival will highlight Knoxville’s robust musical heritage, and the different voices that made it into what it is today.
Featured Entertainment: Dom Flemons, Joe Bussard, Amanda Petrusich, The Bearded, Bill and the Belles, Bradley Reeves of TAMIS.
Other Attractions: There’s going to be a ton of stuff going on at Knoxville Stomp, so check out more than just the music! Some of the most respected authors, scholars, and collectors in the world of record collecting and old-time music will speak at the East Tennessee History Center. While you’re there, you can peruse Come to Make Records, a museum exhibit chronicling Knoxville’s musical history.
Tips: Kick off the weekend at the Sugarlands Speakeasy Party at Historic Westwood, one of Knoxville’s most beautiful historic homes—1920s-era music and cocktails will flow freely, so break out your boater hats and beaded dresses.
More info: knoxstomp.com
Date: May 7, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Location: Candoro Arts & Heritage Center (4450 Candora Ave.)
Tickets: Suggested $5 donation at the gate
What It’s Celebrating: For the 16th year in a row, Vestival is bringing the South Knoxville community together this Mother’s Day weekend for a day of live music, local craft and food vendors, dancing, and more at the historic Candoro Marble Building. Come and celebrate the rich heritage of Vestal and surrounding communities. Any and all proceeds generated from this event support the programming efforts of Candoro Arts & Heritage Center.
Featured Entertainment: Around a dozen bands will be playing on three stages at this year’s Vestival. In addition to that, Three Rivers Market will be providing a Mother’s Day Brunch at 11 a.m. while the kids are preoccupied with the plethora of activities including puppets, acrobats, and magicians.
More Info: candoromarble.org
International Biscuit Festival
Dates: May 12-14
Location: Downtown Knoxville
Tickets: Biscuit Boulevard: $10: Biscuit Bash: $75: Southern Food Writing Conference: $495
What It’s Celebrating: Begun in 2009, the International Biscuit Festival was envisioned by a group of local biscuit lovers who wanted to share Knoxville’s biscuit heritage with the world. What started as a fun gathering for friends and family has grown into a nationally recognized food festival.
Featured Entertainment: Kicking off the festival, a variety of biscuit-themed art will be showcased downtown at Coffee & Chocolate, Rala, and Pioneer House from May 6 through May 30. Other biscuit-themed attractions include a Mister and Miss Biscuit Pageant, a Biscuit Baking Contest, a Biscuit Songwriting Contest, and the annual Southern Food Writing Conference.
Tips: If you can’t make it to the Southern Food Writing Conference but still want to meet the speakers, head over to the Biscuit Bash where you can mingle with your favorite food personalities over music, moonshine cocktails, and—you guessed it—biscuits.
More info: biscuitfest.com
Children’s Festival of Reading
Date: May 21, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Location: World’s Fair Park
What It’s Celebrating: Help the kids start the summer off right with a full day of music, storytelling, arts, crafts, science exploration, food and fun.
Featured Entertainment: Here you can meet the authors of Ladybug Girl, Paperboy, Dragonbreath, and many others. Children’s singer-songwriter Molly Ledford will be performing during the day as well.
What’s New this Year: This year’s festival is a kick-off for the Summer Learning Club’s reading challenges. Participants in the club read a certain amount over the summer, and get some sweet prizes at the end.
Tips: There will be free parking downtown.
More info: knoxlib.org
Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival & Games
Dates: May 21-22
Location: Maryville College
Tickets: Early purchase (ends May 19), $10-$25; after May 19, full ticket: $50; Scotch Tasting at Sullivan’s: $75; Gold Patron Package: $100. Kids under 16 years old: free!
Festival: You don’t have to be Scottish in order to enjoy this festival! Originally founded in 1981, this is now one of the oldest Scottish Festivals in the country, with dozens of pipe and drum bands filling the air with colorful sounds, vibrantly attired dancers performing traditional highland dances, sheepdog demonstrations, and a plethora of traditional Celtic food vendors
Games: You can’t have a true Scottish festival without competition! Athletic events include a caber toss, stone put, and hammer throw; music events include competitions for bagpipers, drums, and full bands. And on Saturday, there will be a traditional highland dance competition. And don’t forget about the annual Clan Challenge! With a kilted mile run, battle-ax throw, ladies haggis hurl, and more, this is something you can’t miss.
For Kids: Kids under 16 get in free, and a supervised play area is provided for the little ones. There are also several parent-child activities to choose from.
More info: smokymountaingames.org
Bike, Boat, Brew & Bark
Dates: June 4-5
Location: Volunteer Landing, Urban Wilderness
What it’s Celebrating: Bike, Boat, Brew & Bark celebrates the best of what Knoxville has to offer. Whether you are a local, a tourist, an outdoor adventurer, a dog lover, a craft-beer enthusiast or any combination of the above, you’ll be able to discover something new! The Knoxville Visitor Centers will be open on Gay Street, Volunteer Landing, and at Outdoor Knoxville where staff can help guide you on your next adventure.
Knoxville Powerboat Classic: Returning for the third year in a row, powerboats will be racing up and down the Tennessee river at Volunteer Landing all weekend. This event is part of the Powerboat Superleague, the nation’s oldest and most respected powerboat racing circuit for Formula Two and Formula Three boats, which go up to 100 mph.
Bike: Check out the boat races from your bike seat as you ride along the greenways, and continue on for a ride through Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness.
Boat: Grab your friends and watch the races from the water before you head out for the day.
Brew: Grab a home-brewed specialty from any of Knoxville’s esteemed breweries.
Bark: Plan an outing at the river with your four-legged friends. Afterward, head on over to Market Square for dinner, which has plenty of dog-friendly patios! Later on, you can tucker out the kids by taking them to watch the Smoky Mountain Dock Diving Dogs at the riverside.
More info: visitknoxville.com
Secret City Festival
Dates: June 10-11
Location: Oak Ridge
Tickets: Most events: Free! Headline Concerts: $22 until May 30, $25 after and at the gate.
What It’s Celebrating: Originally known as the Azalea Festival, a small one day arts and crafts show that started in 1982 before evolving into Mayfest in 1990, the name was changed to the Secret City Festival in 2003 to showcase Oak Ridge’s nuclear history.
Featured Entertainment: Friday: The Charlie Daniels Band; Saturday: Grand Funk Railroad
Other Attractions: Activities include food, arts and crafts, a petting zoo, inflatables, water slides, and a World War II reenactment.
Tips: While parking is unavailable on festival grounds, there will be shuttles going to and from the offsite parking lots for those who need special transportation from their vehicle.
More info: secretcityfestival.com
Big Kahuna Wing Festival
Date: June 11, 12 to 8 p.m.
Location: World’s Fair Park
Tickets: Advance: $10; at the gate: $15; VIP: $150
Description: If you love wings, then this is the festival for you! The Big Kahuna Wing Festival will be featuring over 10,000 pounds of wings, a wing eating competition, a wing cooking competition, live music (lineup TBA), a kids corner, and a silent auction.
Tips: Bring a couple of lawn chairs and enjoy the food and music in World’s Fair Park. No pets are allowed.
More info: bkwfestival.com
Date: June 18
Location: World’s Fair Park
What It’s Celebrating: Founded in 2010, Knoxville’s PrideFest is an open celebration of music, entertainment and speakers focused on promoting equality and inclusion of all people.
Festival Entertainment: Cheryl Wright, Pop Rox, Coco Montrese, Derrick Barry, God Des & She, Knoxville Gay Men’s Chorus, Knoxville Opera
Parade: The annual PrideFest parade returns this year alongside the festival! Trophies will be awarded to the top three floats which use the festival’s theme of Love Won. Registration to participate in the parade ends June 15.
Tips: Check out the PrideFest website for a month’s worth of other activities around town.
More Info: knoxvillepridefest.org
Date: June 18, 4 to 8 p.m.
Location: Outdoors near the Southern Railway Terminal (400 W Depot Ave.)
Tickets: $45 before May 31, $50 after; designated driver tickets: $20 (non-alcoholic drinks provided)
What It’s Celebrating: Now in its sixth year, Knoxville’s annual BrewFest hosts a bundle of breweries from all over the region. Come enjoy a lovely summer afternoon with beers of all colors, styles, and flavors! You must be 21 or older and present a government issued ID to be admitted to the festival. While you’re drinking responsibly, you can help support a cause! All net proceeds of the festival benefit CureDuchenne, a charity dedicated to helping cure the devastating and lethal muscle disease affecting more than 24,000 children in the U.S. alone.
Tips: While there is parking available downtown, please consider using public transportation or a designated driver. Water will be provided, so drink lots of it.
More info: knoxvillebrewfest.com
Date: June 23-27
Location: Market Square, Morningside Park, Chilhowee Park
Tickets: Parade and African World Marketplace: free; concert TBA
What It’s Celebrating: Now in its 27th year, Kuumba Fest brings African culture to the heart of Knoxville with a variety of activities. First, the Junkanu Parade marches down Gay Street accompanied by drummers, stilt walkers, and dancers. Then Market Square and Morningside Park are transformed into African markets, with lots of unique vendors. And Chilhowee Park often caps off the festivities with a live concert.
Tips: More details are yet to be announced, so be sure to check the festival website.
More Info: kuumbafestival.com
Hops in the Hills
Dates: June 24-25
Location: Downtown Maryville
Tickets: Friday Night Brew Crawl: $10; Saturday GA: $40; designated driver: $10; bundle: $80
What It’s Celebrating: Now in its second year, Maryville’s celebration of fermentation brings together over 20 local breweries and live music in the scenic gateway to the Smoky Mountains.
Featured Entertainment: The lineup will be announced on the Hop in the Hills website soon.
Other Attractions: Ever wanted to learn more about the art of microbrewing? Well, you’re in luck! There will be a multitude of seminars covering the science and agriculture of craft brewing given by experts in the field. The seminar schedule will be announced on the Hops in the Hills website in the near future.
Tips: This festival is 21 and older only..
More info: hopsinthehills.com
Meadow Lark Festival at Ijams
Date: June 27
Location: Ijams Nature Center
Tickets: $20 for a limited time
What It’s Celebrating: Meadow Lark Festival pairs Americana music with the beauty of Knoxville’s own urban nature center. With plenty of food, local artists, and fantastic music to go around, this is one festival you can’t miss!
Featured Entertainment: Keep watch on the Ijams website for the lineup announcement!
Tips: Parking is available at the Visitor Center and Mead’s Quarry and at the Tennessee School for the Deaf. Also, since the stage has lawn seating, make sure to bring a camp chair or lawn blanket to kick back and enjoy the music. Pets are not allowed at the festival.
More info: ijams.org
Festival on the 4th
Date: July 4th
Location: World’s Fair Park
What It’s Celebrating: Come to World’s Fair Park this July 4th to help celebrate Knoxville’s 225th birthday!
Featured Entertainment: Several local bands will be playing throughout the day in the park. Capping off the night, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra will be performing at 8 p.m., followed shortly by a dramatic fireworks display at 9:30.
What’s New This Year: In honor of Knoxville’s 225th anniversary, there will be several new additions to this year’s Festival on the 4th, including a carousel on the Festival Lawn and a “Water Wars” attraction to keep cool in the summer heat.
Tips: Free parking will be available in the 11th Street, Locust Street, Walnut Street, State Street, and Market Square garages, as well as the city’s Blackstock lot on Grand Avenue. ADA parking is available in the Fort Kid parking lot. Festivalgoers, don’t forget to bring sunscreen, hats, blankets and lawn chairs! Arrive early to stake your claim on the lawn.
More info: knoxvilletn.gov
And Then There’s…
Festival of Cultures
This family-friendly event features live music, multicultural exhibits, crafts and balloon art for children, and international foods.
Friday, April 8, 4 p.m. • Pellissippi State Community College, Hardin Valley Campus (10915 Hardin Valley Rd.)
Related to the museum’s current special exhibition, “Maya: Lords of Time,” Maya Festival will present examples of traditional Maya dress, dance and music.
Saturday, April 9. 1–4 p.m. • UT’s McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture (1327 Circle Park Dr.)
Navy Week celebrates U.S. Navy sailors with a series of events, from a proclamation on Market Square (noon, April 11) to paratroopers descending on the Orange and White game at Neyland Stadium (2 p.m., April 16) April 11-17 • all over town
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