Annual Festivals/Fairs in Jacksonville, FL
Itching for a good read? You'll find one at the Amelia Island Book Festival. Each February, the island hosts upwards of 40 authors including New York Times bestsellers, up-and-coming regional writers and even the occasional first-timer with an impressive debut. And you just might find the inspiration to launch your own writing career. Speakers and workshop presenters have included the likes of true crime writer Kathryn Casey and David Morrell, who created the Rambo character with his debut novel, First Blood, and is considered the "father of the modern action novel." Readings, signings, workshops, cocktail parties and an annual gala are held in charming venues throughout the historic seaside town over three days each February.
If you're a serious classical or chamber music connoisseur, mark your calendar for the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival, one of the Southeast's largest and most prestigious music events. Each May and June, some 70 artists from around the world descend upon this tiny seaport, playing multiple venues over the course of this four-week event. Internationally renowned musicians and emerging artists play intimate venues including churches, a 19th century courthouse and a Civil War fort. The festival's perennial favorite Beer & G-Strings series features musical acts on the lighter side - master fiddlers and French cabarets, for example. And it's all for a good cause. Festival proceeds help send young aspiring artists to the nation's leading conservatories to further their musical education.
Time to practice your "Arrrgh!" Each May, the tiny coastal town of Fernandina Beach is invaded by pirates. It’s all part of the annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, which celebrates the town’s history as a one-time pirate’s haven and the birthplace of the modern day shrimping industry. First inhabited by the Timucuan Indians, Fernandina Beach is the only municipality in the United States to have been under eight national flags: France, Spain, Great Britain, Spain (again), the Patriots of Amelia Island, the Green Cross of Florida, Mexico, the Confederate States of America and the U.S. Shrimpers still dock at Fernandina today and the festival serves up a selection of shrimp dishes that rivals a Bubba Gump’s.
Touted as the nation’s second largest jazz festival and one of the nation’s 20 best, the Jacksonville Jazz Festival has been a favorite River City tradition since 1979. It was founded to help revitalize the tiny Mayport fishing village and originally featured primarily local talent. It since has grown to become a destination festival featuring major international jazz acts – the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Natalie Cole and the Count Basie Orchestra - and attracting fans from across the country. Besides the multiple jazz concerts (mostly at Metropolitan Park on the St. Johns River) the springtime festival also features wine tastings, juried art shows and the Great American Jazz Piano Competition. Be sure to pick up an official Jacksonville Jazz Festival poster. They’re collectors’ items and older ones in good condition have been known to fetch a pretty penny.
Founded in 2003, the Jacksonville Film Festival has quickly grown to become a destination event for film buffs throughout the Southeast. The festival pays homage to Jacksonville’s history as the "Winter Film Capitol of the World" during the silent film days of the 1910s and 1920s, while showcasing today’s top independent filmmakers from around the globe. As many as 20 countries at a time have been represented at the festival, which also features a full slate of daytime workshops and nighttime parties. If you’re looking to launch your own filmmaking career, workshops and symposiums at the Jacksonville Film Festival cover the full range of subjects from screenwriting to pitching to entertainment law.