Greater Gainesville and surrounding areas are hosting family-friendly festivals throughout April and May. The events are all close to home and feature tasty food, live music, arts and crafts and a variety of outdoor activities for people of all ages and ability levels. From paddling, kayaking and biking through the Suwanee River area, to enjoying beer while benefitting trees, to celebrating zucchinis, watermelon and strawberries, there’s something for everybody.
Springs Celebration and O’Leno Ole’ Chili Cook-off
April 6, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
410 SE O’Leno Park Road., High Springs
Put your chili recipe to the test by competing with other chili chefs. This event is sanctioned by Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI) but CASI membership is not required. Trophies will be awarded for first through 10th place. Come out and enjoy not only great chili but a variety of activities including environmental exhibits, art vendors and live music, in addition to a guided interpretive walk on park trails along the beautiful Santa Fe River.
Swallowtail Spring Fest
April 6, 12-10 p.m.
17603 NW 276 Lane, Alachua
Care for some fresh produce? Then come visit the Swallowtail Farm for its 10th Annual Spring Festival, celebrating the spring harvest and the local community. Local food and drinks will be offered at this sustainable farm and homestead revival that will affirm and empower and uplift. Activities include live music, arts, farming, workshops, farm tours and more.
Bradford County Strawberry Festival
April 6-7, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
2300 N. Temple Ave, Starke
Take a 30-minute drive out to Starke and enjoy the annual strawberry festival. Highlights for this two-day event include a “kidz zone,” food, arts and crafts, vendors, live music, kids’ rides, train and helicopter rides – and strawberries. This is a pet-friendly event. For regular attendees, be sure to note that the festival is being held at its new location, offering more visitor parking, space for vendors, self-contained RVs, trailers and approximately 20 acres for growth.
Great Gainesville Car Show
April 13, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
111 E. University Avenue, Gainesville
Come downtown to the Bo Diddley Plaza and enjoy the sights of vintage and modern cars. There will be music, trophies and prizes. The event is free for spectators. The third annual car show is a community gathering celebrating cars and motorcycles while supporting a local charity. All profits go to Noah’s Endeavor, a nonprofit that hosts weekly sports and extracurricular activities for children of all abilities.
The 5th Avenue Arts Festival
321 NW 10th St., Gainesville
This festival has grown from hosting 100 people its first year in 1979 to more than 20,000. Come on down on Saturday as the Festival officially opens with a Gospel program followed by dancers, local bands and singers. On Sunday, booths and exhibits open at noon and visitors can enjoy jazz and reggae on stage from local and national bands. Founded by University of Florida students and community residents to celebrate the cultural history of the area, the festival is part of a permanent exhibit at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
Tree Fest 2019
April 27, 12-11 p.m.
3650 SW 42nd Ave., Gainesville
Swamp Head Brewery would like you to help them plant trees. Join in the fun and help raise money to plant trees at the Little Orange Creek Preserve in Hawthorne, Florida. Five trees will be planted for every beer purchased and 20 trees for every T-shirt purchased. These trees are one-year-old longleaf pines and will be planted by the Alachua Conservation Trust. The event will also feature food trucks, family-friendly activities and live music.
Suwannee Spring Pedal ‘n’ Paddle Festival 2019
May 2, 1 p.m. to May 5 12 p.m.
White Springs, FL 32096
This Spring Bicycle Festival offers a variety of outdoor experiences around White Springs and Suwannee River Valley – from great on-road and off-road rides to canoeing and kayaking activities. You can paddle the Ichnetucknee River on Friday and the the Suwannee River on Saturday. Participants can enjoy a different adventure every morning, afternoon and evening, including hiking, yoga and social events. Lodging and camping are available.
Windsor Zucchini Festival
May 11, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
1401 Co Road 234, Gainesville
What began as an event to fund the Windsor Volunteer Fire Department’s new building in 1981 has grown into a yearly festival celebrating, of all things, zucchini. This hometown gathering will include an arts and crafts show, zucchini-carving contests, a plant sale, flower pot planting, a raffle, an auction, live music, children’s activities, inflatables, food and – you guessed it – zucchini. So take a 20-minute ride to the “Zucchini Capital of the World.”
Newberry Watermelon Festival
May 18, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
CountryWay TownSquare, Newberry
This annual festival has been celebrating watermelons since 1946. Visitors can enjoy exhibits, craft and food vendors, children’s activities and more. Come enjoy the pageants, including the crowing of the festival queen, teen queen, teen, children and baby. Or let your children try their hand at the watermelon-rolling or seed-spitting contests. Fun for the entire family featuring all things watermelon.
With grade school still in session and busy work schedules, weekends are valuable for families. So consider getting out of the house and spending some quality time with family – in addition to supporting local businesses.