Brevard’s fusion of scenic natural surroundings and unique activities make it a great spot for a North Carolina vacation. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the town's proximity to the Nantahala National Forest and more than 250 waterfalls. Visitors shouldn’t miss an opportunity to visit the city’s downtown area, which features more than 50 shops, diners, galleries, and more.
The White Squirrel Festival began as a small gathering of musicians 14 years ago and has grown into one of the region's largest spring music festivals. It will take place May 26-28 across Downtown Brevard, and planners expect more than 35,000 attendees. More than 14 acts will perform music throughout the event, representing a variety of genres. Each day of the event features a different headliner: Jeff Austin Band (Friday), Front Country (Saturday), and Jeff Sipe Trio (Sunday). There will also be a Parade which will honor America's Veterans, and a Squirrel Box Derby that features homemade derby cars racing down Jailhouse Hill. Kids in attendance will love the variety of games and activities (face painting, rides, games, and more). The event provides a boost to local nonprofit companies that work alongside the event to raise money for their causes. We got the chance to interview Nancy Coleman, Promotions Coordinator for the Heart of Brevard, to learn more about this unique North Carolina experience.
RAL: How long has the event been running?
NC: The White Squirrel Festival is in its 14th year. What started out as a quaint and quirky local festival has turned into the largest music festival in the area, drawing 35,000 people to Brevard over the weekend. Attendees come from all over the region as well as many different states and countries.
RAL: What demographic does your event attract? Children? Families? Couples?
NC: We have something for every age including vintage kids rides, 5K and 10K runs with a Children's Fun Walk, face painting, and any food you could hope to find. Of course, there is also music, beer and shopping opportunities for the adults.
RAL: What makes this event unique?
NC: This event stands alone among quirky animal festivals! White Squirrels are native to Brevard, and we are very proud of them. There is even an official city ordinance against killing them, and people come from all over to catch a glimpse of these furry anomalies!
RAL: Take me through a day at the event.
NC: Each day of the festival presents a different experience. Friday night is a special beginning to the weekend. Folks will come into town at the end of the work day or travel and begin meandering through the downtown art galleries and venues. At the 4th Friday Gallery Walk, attendees will meet old friends and make new ones. Already a festive event itself, this kickoff of White Squirrel Weekend, as it is called locally, stirs the excitement for what's coming. Friday evening means food, music, and beer from all three of our local breweries: Brevard Brewing Co., Ecusta Brewing, and Oskar Blues.
On Saturday, attendees usually start their day strolling through the streets of Brevard, perusing the various craft vendors and their unique, handmade crafts and artwork. Veterans are remembered and honored with a parade, followed by Jailhouse Hill getting taken over by homemade derby cars for Brevard's Own Squirrel Box Derby. The day continues with live music, beer, fun and games, and more shopping. As the day progresses and temperatures begin to rise, downtown stores and restaurants offer a welcome escape and change of scenery. Many of these establishments have special sales, promotions, and menu items all weekend.
Sunday is more of the same, with a little later start and finish for the perfect Sunday afternoon! The restaurants in town, as well as the food vendors and trucks arriving for the festival, offer a variety of gourmet fare that is unmatched.
RAL: What can attendees expect for local lodging?
NC: Plan to stay for the weekend if you’re coming to our event. While we don't have many chain hotels, we do boast a plethora of unique lodging opportunities. The Sunset Motel is a hidden local gem; it's truly a modern/retro motel which has been "dressed to the nine's" with mid-century themed decor.
RAL: What does the event mean to the community?
NC: Our community consists of people who want to be involved. We have one of the largest volunteer forces in the area, and many of our local nonprofits are participating in every aspect of what goes on. In fact, the Squirrel Box Derby is organized by and benefits Transylvania County Schools, the American Legion orchestrates the parade, and Brevard Rotary hosts the foot race. The entire event is also a major economic driver for our local economy because of the lodging, shopping, and dining revenue over the weekend.
RAL: Why should people come?
NC: If you are choosing a Memorial Day Weekend activity, it should be the White Squirrel Festival in Brevard. Our beautiful mountain setting, first class production and bands, and small town feel draw people from all over the country, and even the world. It is an experience you literally won't get anywhere else, set in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina!
For more information about the White Squirrel Festival, please visit the event website.