Austin’s spring festival season is just around the corner, and we’re all gearing up for the big one (SXSW), as well as some of the smaller ones. But one of the best things about Austin is there’s almost always a festival for just about everything. Some of those events may not get as much attention, but they’re just as fun and provide great cultural and educational opportunities for Austinites. So expand your horizons a bit with some of these smaller Austin festivals this year.
Holi is a Hindu spring festival of colors, a tradition in India that marks the beginning of the season, a time of hope and joy. Radha Madhav Dham temple in West Austin hosts the annual colorful, playful, family-filled fun festival. The event will be full of music, food, and lots of activities.
Holi’s celebration date changes throughout the year, based on the Hindu calendar. For 2017, Austin’s Holi Festival will be held on Saturday, March 11.
Texas Burlesque Fest
This may be the least family-friendly entry on this list, but it sure is fun for the grownups out there! “The Texas Burlesque Festival is a three-day hoedown and showdown celebrating the raucous revival of burlesque, vaudeville and the accompanying et cetera…this weekend overflows with opportunities to refine your bump and grind including parties, a roundtable/brunch, workshops and performances.” Tickets are broken out into different aspects of the festival, so whether you want to improve your performance game or just watch some legendary showpeople do their thing, you can find something enticing about this weekend (April 6-8, 2017).
The 2017 lineup is extra special because not only does it see the festival return to the historic Paramount Theater, but it will also be headlined by Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, the creators of the festival, will be reuniting to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the fest.
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Texas Veg Fest
It may have the whole state in its name, but this celebration of plant-based lifestyles calls Austin home (specifically Fiesta Gardens). 2017 marks the 6th year of Texas Veg Fest, the educational event that celebrates the health, environmental, and animal welfare benefits of a plant-based lifestyle, hosted by Texas Veg Foundation. The event is free and open to the public, but don’t worry, no one will be there lecturing you about your life choices. This is all about giving you the information that you seek to find, as well as having fun with family activities, craft beer, live music, cooking demonstrations, and more.
This year’s festival is Saturday, April 1 (no, I’m not joking).
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Austin International Poetry Festival
If you have a love for the written or spoken word, you’ll want to participate in this three day celebration of haiku, iambic pentameter, and all other things poetry. The Austin International Poetry Festival includes unique Austin venues, diverse themed poetry readings, open mics, workshops, music and poetry, anthology reading, and a poetry symposium. Impressively, AIPF has hosted poets from over 45 countries across the globe.
This is definitely one of Austin’s more affordable festivals (besides the free ones), as the most expensive registration level costs $40 for poets. There’s also a youth festival that is totally free for those in grades K-12 looking to expand their literacy levels. To register for the festival, held April 6-9, 2017, visit their website.
You probably haven’t heard of Index Fest, and you’ve certainly never been, as 2017 will be the first year for Index Fest to descend upon Texas. You may, however, have attended its predecessor, Untapped. This year the festival that celebrates a Texan’s love for beer and music has been rebranded and reformatted to include more food and arts, two things we can always use more of in Austin.
Index Fest owner Brad Weiss was hired to provide production services for the Untapped Festival each year since 2014, and he proudly helped grow the festival into the popular Texas entertainment and beer-focused staple. When the opportunity came up to acquire the festival, he jumped on it.
Index Fest will take place in Austin on May 13 at the Austin American Statesman, and early bird tickets have already gone on sale. The festival is all-ages friendly.
O. Henry Pun Off World Championship
If you’re an unabashed fan of the pun and/or dad joke, this day-long event of word wizardry and face-palm inducing jokes is definitely for you. The O. Henry Pun Off World Championship is an annual event draws pun-lovers from all over the world who participate in a variety of pun categories and performances for audiences. The festival is hosted in the backyard of the O. Henry Museum, in Brushy Park. If you know downtown Austin, you know that park is not very large, so getting there early is highly recommended. Bring your blankets, chairs, fans, and coolers for a day of serious, but not so serious, comedy.
St. Elias Mediterranean Festival
If your palate has a love for all things Greek, this is the festival where you’re going to enter with an empty stomach. Their website proudly proclaims them as one of the Austin Chronicle’s top 10 food festivals while they list out mouth-watering dishes like gyros, falafel, hummus, and spanakopita.
It’s not just about the food, though. Entertainment includes music, dancing, Greek performers, and more. 2017 dates have not yet been announced, but the event usually takes place in September on the ground of St. Elias Orthodox Church in Central Austin. Stay tuned for updates on their website and Facebook page.
In 2013 the City of Austin issued a proclamation declaring August 29 to be RAS (Riders Against the Storm) Day. For the past couple of years the husband and wife who make up this popular, award-winning musical duo have hosted the RAS Day Festival to celebrate the day with music, movement, and magic.
The festival is all about community and is very family-friendly (often employing the hashtag #funkyfamilyfest). It highlights local musicians in a very big way, and usually features one national headliner (2016 saw Sun Ra Arkestra perform). Tickets are always very reasonably priced, around the $20 range for adults. This year, give this festival a try, and RAS promises to make your “Booty Sweat.”
If Jurassic Park isn’t just a movie franchise to you, but rather a way of life, Fossil Fest is your not-to-be-missed festival. Each year the Paleontological Society of Austin hosts this weekend-long event attended and enjoyed by dino-lovers of all ages. It’s a great learning opportunity for scout troops, home school groups, and really, just about anyone else.
Daily activities include lectures, hands-on activities, demos, and the opportunity to bring in your own fossils for identification, among other things. 2017 dates are set for November 4-5 at the Old Settler’s Heritage Association (next to the Dell Diamond).
Mac and Cheese Fest
Last November saw the first annual Mac & Cheese Festival descend upon the Scoot Inn to sold-out crowds (as in sold out within four hours). While those who didn’t purchase tickets early hopefully still got their fix by consulting our list of Austin’s 10 Best Mac and Cheese Plates, those who made it through the doors got to sample the oozy goodness put forth by around a dozen local eateries attempting to take home the first place prize. That ended up going to Cafe Blue as the fan’s choice and District Kitchen as the judge’s choice.
This year’s festival has yet to be announced, but we are certainly hoping that Austin Food Magazine is making this an annual November event, because who doesn’t need more mac and cheese in their life?
Featured photo from Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons licensed