Travel guide: state fairs and spring festivals

Lights gleam from tents and rides overhead as people hop out off of a towering Ferris wheel and rush to beat the line at a nearby food vendor. Later, they arrive at the main stage just in time for the band and find their seat while proudly carrying their cotton candy and funnel cake. The event lasts long into the night, and before it is over everyone tries their hand at winning an impossibly large stuffed elephant.

Though most students were young children the last time they attended a state fair or festival, these events are still a great option for anyone looking for a different, offbeat way to enjoy the spring weather. This month, Tuscaloosa residents have a variety of events to choose from in the surrounding area. These festivals have themes ranging from magnolias to grit making and everything in between.

Here is an outline of three of the closest, largest spring festivals taking place this month with all the important details required to plan the perfect day trip.

Gardendale Magnolia Festival

WHEN: April 22, 5 p.m.- 10 p.m. and April 23, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.

WHERE: Gardendale Civic Center, Gardendale, AL (about an hour from campus)

WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT: larger than most festivals, 5K run, emphasis on town history

This festival is one of the largest of its kind in Alabama. The event will feature a car show, a dog show, three entertainment stages, a 5K run, a children’s area, carnival games and events, a cowboy arena, a hayride, artisan demonstrations, a play about the town’s history and a driving tour of the city, to name a few of the most popular activities. Due to the great breadth of available events and activities, the festival has been listed as one of the top ten Alabama events to attend by the Alabama Tourism Department.

Montevallo Arts Festival

WHEN: April 16th, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.

WHERE: Orr Park, Montevallo, AL (about an hour from campus)

WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT: local art, outdoor wooded venue

The main emphasis of this festival is local art. Last year, the festival had over 100 art vendors and art demonstrators who sold work and created new art alongside live bands who played throughout the day. This event is family-friendly, with festival favorites like snow cones, funnel cake and barbecue and a children’s area where kids will be able to create an artwork of their own to take home. Additionally, it takes place in Orr Park, a shady outdoor space that adds to the festival atmosphere.

Oak Mountain State Fair

WHEN: April 28- May 8

WHERE: Oak Mountain Amphitheater

WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT: Carnival rides, special shows, fair trade carnival food

This enormous event occurs every year just as the weather begins to warm back up. This year, the fair has all the events locals know and love, like food vendors, carnival games and live music, but there are also several newer activities. The event will have fair trade food available for purchase, a petting zoo of exotic and barnyard animals, puppet shows, an alligator tamer, a family stunt show and the world’s tallest traveling Ferris wheel. Tickets prices vary between $5 and $8, dependent on date of purchase. 

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