Asheville festivals showcase and celebrate the city's diverse populations.
Asheville has long been seen as a community that welcomes and celebrates diversity, but more recently, the city has invested resources into cementing that reputation by establishing an Office of Equity and Inclusion, which provides educational events, resources and guidance to staff and residents on understanding and eliminating racial disparities.
Another way the city helps advance diversity, equity and inclusion is through its many festivals, which bring awareness to and appreciation of its residents’ different cultures and histories.
“While the city takes a content-neutral approach toward permitted events within our outdoor spaces, we understand and appreciate festivals that can highlight different aspects and cultures within our growing and changing city,” says Jon Fillman, community event manager for the City of Asheville.
1. Goombay Festival
For more than 40 years, the annual Goombay Festival has celebrated the city’s African-Caribbean culture. Derived from the terms gombey, a colorful dance in Bermuda, and goombay, a Bahamian word for rhythm, the festival showcases live gospel, reggae and rhythm and blues musical acts, dancing, and West African drum circles as well as food and products from local Black businesses.
The free, three-day festival is sponsored by the YMI Cultural Center — itself one of the oldest Black cultural centers in the country. The event takes place the first weekend in September in downtown Asheville. Visit ymiculturalcenter.org/goombay to learn more.
2. Greek Festival
Each September, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, which celebrated its centennial in 2022, hosts the Asheville Greek Festival.
For over three decades, the church has hosted the free festival to celebrate the Greek community’s storied history in Western North Carolina. Greek families first arrived in Asheville in 1900 and began establishing businesses and restaurants.
The one-day festival showcases many of those businesses. In addition, it gives festivalgoers a taste of Greek culture with traditional foods, such as spanakopita, souvlaki and baklava, as well as Greek wine and coffee, dancing and music. Visitors are also welcome to tour the historic church. Visit holytrinityasheville.com to learn more.
3. Hola Asheville
Each June, Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville comes alive for a daylong celebration of Latin American culture.
Sponsored by Hola Carolina, the Asheville-based organization that works to support, engage and advocate for Latinx communities across Western North Carolina, the Hola Asheville festival highlights the food, music, art and people from some 20 countries.
In the last three decades, Buncombe County’s Latino population has nearly quadrupled, bringing a vibrant community of restaurants, shops, musicians and artists. The Hola Asheville festival shines a spotlight on this community while embracing Hola Carolina’s mission of bridging cultural barriers. Festivalgoers can sample cuisine from a number of Latin American countries or don their dancing shoes to learn the salsa, tango or merengue. For more information, visit holacarolina.org.
4. HardLox Jewish
Food and Heritage Festival Launched in 2002, the HardLox Jewish Food and Heritage Festival brings together all 15 of the city’s Jewish organizations to bring exposure to the vibrant and growing Jewish community. Traditional Jewish food, live music, dancing and crafts are part of the event. Plus, it serves as an opportunity to introduce residents to local Jewish-owned businesses. Visit hardlox.org for more information.
5. The Big Crafty
From the basketry, pottery, woodcarving and beadwork of the original Cherokee natives to the blown glass, sculptures and paintings of newcomers, Asheville has always attracted artists and is known worldwide as a center of arts and crafts.
The Big Crafty — held twice annually in July and December — allows local and regional artists to share and sell their work. The festival was founded by Brandy Bourne and Justin Rabuck and has been named Best Arts/Crafts Fair by the Mountain Xpress every year since its inception in 2008. The festival welcomes more than 100 artists from across the Southeast. For dates and information, visit thebigcrafty.com.
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If you’d like to learn more about the Asheville area, check out the latest edition of Livability Asheville, North Carolina.