Top 20 Events

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Jan. 1, Polar Bear Dip. Run from white as snow sands around the infamous Flora-Bama Lounge into the bracing, blue Gulf! Steaming bowls of lucky black-eyed peas, hot music and New Year’s toasts! Perdido Key, FL, 800-874-1234; (

Jan. 3-Feb. 6, Mardi Gras of Southwest Louisiana. Festivities begin with the Twelfth Night celebration and feature 43 krewes and 2,000 royalty members in seven colorful parades. Special events for kids and seniors. Lake Charles, LA, 800-456-7952; (

Jan. 4,5, 11,12, 18,19, 25,26 and Feb. 1,2, 8,9, 15,16, 22,23, Opry at the Ryman. Come celebrate the history of country music at the Opry. Live entertainment ranging from legends to newcomers, Opry House tours, shopping and Blue grass celebrations! Nashville, TN, 1-800-SEE-OPRY; (

Jan. 10-14; 16-20, Florida Classic Clusters AKC All-Breed Dog Show. Over 18,000 four-legged friends compete in individual breed shows and judgings; obedience and rally trials. Bring your pets to the “Doggie Fun Zone!” Brooksville, FL, 813-215-3580; (

Jan. 11-12, 51st Annual Fur & Wildlife Festival. The oldest and coldest festival in the state features sporting competitions, hunting instruction, oyster shucking, retriever dog trials, food booths and carnival rides. Cameron, LA, 800-456-7952; (

Jan. 19-21, Martin Luther King Jr. Coalition Festival. The only MLK festival in the country salutes the monumental achievements of the civil rights activist with parades, concerts and a candlelight vigil. Free event! Lake Charles, LA, 800-456-7952; (

Jan. 12-19, 18th Annual Wilderness Wildlife Week. Naturalists host 175 seminars covering the history, mystery, past, present and future of the Great Smoky Mountains. Hands-on activities from fly-fishing instruction to mandolin lessons. Pigeon Forge, TN, 800-WINTERFEST; (

Jan. 12-Feb. 29, Dog Days of Winter and Bow-wow Bone-anza. Botanical Gardens goes to the dogs! Canine carnival, photographer, dog and master look-alike contest and a no leash zone. Don’t forget the Frisbee! Huntsville, AL, 256-830-4447, x290; (

Jan. 17-26, Augusta Futurity. Cutting horse competition with a $1M purse attracts nearly 50,000 fans! Western Family Fun Festival and Championship Bullriding; dancing; quarter horse sale and an authentic cowboy parade. Augusta, GA, 706-823-3362; (

Jan. 26, Cape Fear Model Railroad Club Inc's 11th Annual Model Railroad Show & Sale. Annual fundraiser held to promote model railroading. Train supplies, trains and all types of railroad memorabilia will be sold. Free for children under 5! Wilmington, NC, 910-270-2696; (

Jan. 26, Krewe of Janus Mardi Gras Parade. A family friendly Mardi Gras Parade in the Twin cities of Louisiana! Activities include: live bands, a kids parade, a pets parade, dance team performances, carriage rides and shopping. Monroe-West Monroe, LA, 318-338-3172; (

Jan. 26, Kumquat Festival. Come for kumquats, stay for the fun! Free admission to crafts show, four stages of entertainment, kids’ area and tons of pre-festival events. Dade City, FL, 352-567-3769; (

Jan. 31-Feb. 2, North Carolina Jazz Festival. World renown jazz musicians featuring B.E.D.; violin prodigy, Jonathan Russell and Big Band swing by the University of NC at Wilmington in a cozy, cabaret-style setting. Wilmington, NC, 910-793-1111; (

Jan. 31-Feb. 2, 69th Annual Southwest District Livestock Show & Rodeo/Western Heritage Days. “The Greatest Show on Dirt,” thrills thousands with rodeo events, livestock shows, Wild West Gun Fights and a live cattle drive! Lake Charles, LA, 800-456-7952; (

Every month of the year, 20 of the top events from across the region are chosen as the Top 20 in the Southeast. The winner list is sent to over 800 media contacts around the country. The winning events are listed for and

Selected events enjoy free, widespread publicity from newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and more as well as having the honor of being included in this prestigious list of special events and festivals. Nomination forms, along with deadlines and nomination information, can be found at under the Top 20 tab.

For more information, please e-mail

Spring is around the corner. Deadline to apply to be a Spring (April, May, June) 2008 event is October 12, 2007. For an application, visit the STS Top 20 page.


Feb. 1, Krewe of Lafitte Mardi Gras Parade. 100,000 revelers line the streets during the only illuminated parade that lights up the night with twinkling floats, marching bands and colorfully costumed celebrants tossing trinkets, treats and doubloons! Pensacola, FL, 850-436-7638; (

Feb. 2, Pensacola Grand Mardi Gras Parade. “Throw me somethin’, Mister!” One of the country’s original Mardi Gras parades attracts 100,000 people grabbing for tons of throws from multi-colored floats. Moon pie, ya’ll! Pensacola, FL, 850-436-7638; (

Feb. 2, Double Bridge Run. Run like somebody’s chasing ‘ya – because they are! 15K course spans the bridges crossing Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Sound. 5K event for runners and walkers and a Kids Fun Run. Pensacola, FL, 850-434-2800; (

Feb. 3, Krewe of Wrecks Mardi Gras Parade. Mardi Gras merriment with a tropical twist! Stay for dozens of after parties on the beachside boardwalk and at the shell. No one leaves beadless! Pensacola Beach, FL, 850-932-1500; (

Feb. 7-9, 17th Annual Smoky Mountains Storytelling Festival. Old West sagas and cowboy poetry; “Haunts & Haints Tales” spine-tinglers; hilarious liars contests; spoken word workshops and the National Youth Storytelling Showcase of young, yarn weavers! Pigeon Forge, TN, 800-WINTERFEST; (

Feb 12.-May 2, McNeese University’s Banner Series. Two full months of “enrichment for everyone” from classical music to Lazar Vaudeville performances; history, religion and current events lectures; singer-songwriters; jazz, bluegrass and brass bands. Lake Charles, LA, 800-456-7952; (

Feb. 13-17, Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville. An annual charity event that benefits the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and the Museum of Art and Exchange Club. Discover paintings, antiques and other collectibles. Special previews and group tickets available. Nashville, TN, 615-352-1282 or 800-891-8075; (

Feb. 15-17, Southeastern Wildlife Exposition. The largest wildlife art and nature event in the country features appearances by Jack Hanna, 400 international artists, Busch Gardens Wildlife Exhibits and outdoor fun for kids – of all ages! Charleston, SC, 843-723-1748; (

Feb. 16, 3rd Annual Antique Appraisal Fair & Show. Is there cash in your attic? Bring your treasures for appraisal – just $5 each – at this fun benefit. Antiques & art sale and live auction follows. Greeneville, TN, 423-638-4111; (

Feb. 17, Pensacola Marathon. USATF certified course winds through historic downtown and along the sparking bay. Run with us! Download training programs, register online, lace up your shoes and come on down! Pensacola, FL, 850-435-9222; (

Feb. 21-23, Georgia National Rodeo. Cowboys and cowgirls competing in PRCA-sanctioned saddle bronc riding, calf roping, steer wrestling and more! Free livestock show, 4-H and FFA student competitions; full weekend of family events! Perry, GA, 478-987-3247; thawk@gnfa.como. (

Feb. 21-24, 8th Annual Saddle Up! Authentic Western music and cowboy poetry performed by those who live (and love) the life! Swing dancing, songwriters’ workshops, Dutch oven cooking competitions and cowboy church. Pigeon Forge, TN, 800-WINTERFEST; (

Feb. 22, Alabama Music Hall of Fame’s 12th Induction Banquet & Awards Show. Grand opening gala for the gorgeous Renaissance Hotel and Spa Montgomery includes a black-tie reception, dinner, awards presentation and live performances. Montgomery, AL, 800-239-2643; (

Feb. 22, Annual Applause for Pioneers Gala. An evening of elegance honors trailblazers in education who changed the landscape of black academia in early 20th century Tallahassee. Gala dinner, music and dancing. Tallahassee, FL, 850-681-7881; (

Feb. 22-24, Dogwood Arts Festival House & Garden Show. 10,000 square-feet of fully landscaped gardens and blooming flowers, 250 exhibitors, exquisite tablescapes, interior design RoomScapes and a lovely Wine & Cheese Garden. Knoxville, TN, 865-637-4561; (

Feb. 23, Casanova Hunt Point to Point Races. Experience the excitement of steeplechase racing. Eight races over hurdles, timber and more! Pack a picnic for the annual tailgate competition and join the fun! Gainesville, VA, 540-788- 4806; (

Feb. 28-Mar. 2, BB&T Charleston Food + Wine Festival. Quintessential Lowcountry fare paired with southern succulence in 50+ events! Bubbles & Sweets, Gospel Brunch, BBQ, Blues & Brew, Culinary Village, guest chefs, sommeliers and more! Charleston, SC, 843-722-5547; (

Feb. 29-Mar. 1, Black Heritage Festival. Cultural and performing arts; gospel, R&B and a free Zydeco street dance. Kids’ zone, fashion shows, pageants, visual arts and empowering seminars highlighting the achievements of African-Americans. Lake Charles, LA, 800-456-7952; (

Don't just make it a one-day affair, make it a whole weekend! Check out our companion piece,

It is rich on ideas on where to lodge, dine and shop while attending the event.

MARCH 2008

Mar. 1-2, Gulf Coast Renaissance Faire. A royal invitation to make medieval merriment with costumed musicians and dancers, jousting knights, swashbucklers, wizards, jesters and jugglers! Period food, drink, crafts and wares. Pensacola, FL, 877-429-8462; (

Mar. 5-9, Festival of Flowers. Fragrant features like the World of Flowers blossoms from around the globe, life-size landscapes, delightful Children’s Venue, Art in the Park, designer tablescapes, environmental plantings and workshops for green-thumb wannabes! Mobile, AL, 251-639-2050; (

Mar. 5-11, Hilton Head International Piano Competition. Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra presents two dozen contestants ages 18-30 vying for $24K in prizes and concerts during this acclaimed competition sponsored by Steinway & Sons. Hilton Head Island, SC, 843-842-5880; (

Mar. 7-9, Atlanta 500. Get your motor running at NASCAR’s fastest track, a favorite of drivers and racing fans! Camping, tailgating and a full weekend of racing: Craftsman Truck Series, Busch Series and NEXTEL Cup. Hampton, GA, 770-946-3952; (

Mar. 8-16, Canadian American Days. Nine-day fete that centers on Canadian and American visitors. Enjoy a shag dance competition, kitefest, Little Olympics, golf competition & more. Hosted by US and Canadian ambassadors. Myrtle Beach, SC, 843-626-7444., (

Mar. 8-9, Kentucky Crafted: The Market 2008. We got it made in Kentucky! Pottery, paintings, baskets, metal works; the finest traditional, folk and contemporary crafts; two-dimensional visual art, musical recordings, books and great food. Frankfort, KY, 888-KYCRAFT; (

Mar. 12-16, 14th Annual A Mountain Quiltfest. 20,000 quilting enthusiasts and crafters attend sewing sessions, master classes for cloth artisans of all skill levels, and compete in the multi-category quilt show. Pigeon Forge, TN, 800-251-9100; (

Mar. 13-Apr. 12, Historic Charleston Foundation 61st Annual Spring Festival of Houses & Gardens and Antiques Show. Enjoy the port city’s brilliant blooming season exploring gardens and private interiors of 150 colonial and antebellum homes. Charleston, SC, 843-723-1623; (

Mar. 14, Gallery Night Spring Fling. Stroll or take the trolley, stopping to hear street performers, shop for art, or relax under the canopy of old oaks in the picturesque, panhandle city. Pensacola, FL, 850-432-9906; (

Mar. 14-15, Beaches to Peaches Yard Sale. Over 200 miles of bargain hunting along scenic Highway 341! Antiques, collectibles, glassware, linens, coins and one-of-a-kind treasures in 11 counties and 24 friendly communities. Culloden to Brunswick, GA, 912-375-5035; (

Mar. 14-16, Iowa Rabbit Festival. Over 35,000 revelers come to celebrate the rabbit industry with live music, carnival rides, parades, a petting zoo, pony rides, Miss Bunny Pageant and great food! Iowa, LA, 800-456-7952; (
Mar. 15, Annual Runabout in the Royal District Car Show. Fun for the whole family! Vintage, classic and antique cars; tractors, motorcycles and trains; swap meet, historic tours, scavenger hunt and live music! Kingsland, GA, 912-729-2848; (

Mar. 15, 66th Annual Aiken Trials. The first leg of Aiken’s Triple Crown events starts with a pre-race day Starting Gate Party and continues with elaborate tailgating spreads, vendors and spectacular Carriage Parade! Aiken, SC, 803-648-4631; (

Mar. 20-Apr. 5, Savannah Music Festival. The world comes to the historic city for 18 days of performances by renowned classical, jazz, blues and bluegrass national and international artists. Savannah, GA, 912-234-3378; (

Mar. 24-Apr. 5, Columbus Spring Pilgrimage. Tour historic homes and churches amid blossoming gardens of azaleas, dogwoods, irises and roses. Carriage rides, artisans market and nightly “Tales from the Crypt” at Friendship Cemetery. Columbus, MS, 800-920-3533; (

Mar. 27-Apr. 6, Chasco Fiesta. Pithlachascotee River pow wow features “mostly free” events like street and boat parades; antique show and flea market; Native American arts and crafts; sports tourneys; carnival and every music genre! New Port Richey, FL, 877-424-2726; (

Mar. 28-29, Garden Club of Charleston 73rd Annual Walking Tour of Private Houses & Gardens. Picturesque peek into the historic port city’s most beautiful private homes and gardens. Charleston, SC, 843-530-5164; (

Mar. 29, Third Leg of the Triple Crown – Pacers and Polo. Bring a picnic and watch the match, replace the divots and cheer on your favorite team at this fund-raiser benefiting USC Aiken’s student-athletes scholarship program. Aiken, SC, 803-641-3406; (

Mar. 29, Springtime Tallahassee. 200,000 festival goers welcome the season with colorful parades and marching bands, Jubilee in the Park, seafood feasts, beer gardens and crafts show. Tallahassee, FL, 850-224-5012; (

Mar. 29, Ramp It Up! Festival. Tasty day of trout fishing, ramp samplings, BBQ cook-off, entertainment and an “Honor the Elders Day” recognizing the more seasoned citizens of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Cherokee, NC, 828-259-9910, x108; (

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