For the 38th time, food, fun and free music will return to the streets of downtown Morganton later this summer.

The Historic Morganton Festival is back for another turn just more than a month from now, and a star-studded lineup will bolster the Morganton Main Street office’s biggest yearly endeavor. That includes headlining performances from Thunderstruck, an AC/DC tribute band, on Friday, Sept. 6, and country star Rodney Atkins on Saturday, Sept. 7.

“This is our 38th festival in downtown and, as always, we’re back with free concerts throughout the day Friday and Saturday, as well as over 200 vendors,” said Abby Nelson, marketing and events coordinator for Main Street.

On the festival’s main City Stage, Thunderstruck will take the stage from 9:30-11 p.m. following a performance by The Broadcast from 8-9 p.m. and a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner at 9 p.m. Then on Saturday, Atkins will be preceded on the main stage by the Miss Morganton Pageant at 5:30 p.m., music from the band Farewell Angelina from 7-8 p.m., and the singing of the national anthem at 8 p.m.

“The City Stage, located on South Green Street, has a great lineup this year,” Nelson said. “On Friday night, we have The Broadcast and Thunderstruck. Thunderstruck is North Carolina’s ultimate AC/DC band. Let me tell you what, I saw them in Charlotte at a conference this past February and they are fantastic. They sound like the real deal, and I think that will be a treat Friday night.

“Then on Saturday, we have Farewell Angelina. They’re a country band with all female vocalists. The headliner for Saturday night is Rodney Atkins. All of this is free for people to attend and enjoy.”

Indie Stage

Returning for a second year, the Indie Stage again will boast a number of regional acts. Located in the Beer Garden next to the Burke Arts Council, the stage’s Friday lineup includes a marching band parade along Union Street at noon, the Pan Jive Steel Drum Band from 3-5 p.m., Gypsy Grass from 5:30-7:30 p.m., and Wiregrass from 8-11 p.m.

Saturday’s Indie Stage schedule consists of story-time with the Cat in the Hat from 9 a.m. to noon, The Funk Connection from 12:30-2:30 p.m., Greg Mastin and The Druthers from 3-5 p.m., Matt Walsh and The Movers from 5:30-7:30 p.m., and Shiloh Hill from 8-10 p.m.

“The Indie Stage is a regional stage focusing on bands from our area,” Nelson said. “That stage has a variety of genres. It’s a little bit of something for everyone.”

Pepsi Stage/Teen Zone/Kids Zone

The Pepsi Stage, located inside the festival’s Teen Zone, features regional and dance performers. Friday’s lineup includes Taber’s Black Belt Academy at 5:30 p.m., Studio K at 6:30 p.m., The Dance Factory at 7:30 p.m., and Dance Studio of Granite Falls at 8:30 p.m.

A full day Saturday will feature performances by the Sandy Beach Shag Club at 9:30 a.m., Tumblemania at 10:30 a.m., Clater Kaye Theatreworks at 11:30 a.m., Sherri’s School of Dance at 4:30 p.m., Morganton Improv at 5:30 p.m., Studio K at 6:30 p.m., and The Dance Factory at 7:30 p.m.

Additionally, the Kids Zone will feature roving performers throughout both days of the festival.

“Our Kids Zone and Teen Zone will open up at 2 p.m. Friday with ticketed rides and games for kids of all ages,” Nelson said.


The more than 200 vendor booths lining the streets of downtown will include crafts, art, food and more. Vendors will occupy eight blocks during the festival.

“They’re selling a plethora of art, jewelry, woodworking, pottery, soaps, candles and all sorts of handmade craft items,” Nelson said. “In addition to the craft items, we also some great food vendors coming back this year. You have everything from chicken on a stick and homemade ice cream to egg rolls, turkey legs and big festival subs and sandwiches.”

Nelson described the festival as a big community event. She said many of the vendors are area nonprofit organizations, and the festival serves as their top fundraiser for the year.

“It’s just a huge impact for our area,” she said. “I think with visitors who haven’t visited our area in Morganton or the festival before, they’ll be shocked at just how lively and active the streets of downtown Morganton become during this event with over a mile-and-a-half of vendors.

“It really is something for everyone. You can find that little treasure from one of the craft vendors. You can spend the day riding the rides and playing games with kids or family members and enjoy festival fare that you can’t get any day of the week.”

Nelson added that the element of community support the festival receives creates an event that is attractive for those who attend, bringing them back year after year.

Sunrise Run and Student Fitness Challenge

The Morganton Greenway again will be host to the festival’s Sunrise Run and Student Fitness Challenge with 5k, 10k and fun runs and walks on Saturday morning. Timing and scoring for the hundreds of expected participants will be provided by Racing Toes.

For the 5k and 10k, race-day registration is from 6:30-7:30 a.m. and the races begin at 8 a.m. The one-mile fun run and walk has race-day registration from 8-9 a.m. and begins at 9:30 a.m. Participants can pick up packets on Friday night at Catawba Meadows Park from 5-7 p.m.

Awards will include trophies to the overall winners in each of the three races. Age group winners will be able to find their place and finish times onsite with Racing Toes. Refreshments of water, Gatorade, bananas and granola bars will be available.

The Sunrise Run is sponsored by Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge, Gragg Orthodontics, Amy Brooks Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Food Matters Market and Café, Fleet Feet Sports, ServPro, Breathe Yoga and Wellness and Nationwide Insurance Bowers Agency.

MADE Competition

Also returning for a second year will be the MADE Competition featuring all nine Burke County middle and high schools. MADE stands for the Morganton Arts, Design and Engineering Competition.

Nelson said this year’s competition will be an onsite design and build challenge that will be announced a week before the festival. Prizes for the competition will be $750 for first place, $500 for second place and $250 for third place in both the middle and high school classifications.

The competition is sponsored by Leviton Manufacturing, Continental Automotive Systems, Work in Burke, Western Piedmont Community College and the city of Morganton.

Festival sponsors

Numerous local and larger businesses are supporting this year’s festival, including presenting sponsor Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge. Tier 1 sponsors are Case Farms Chicken, N.C. Education Lottery, Seiren North America and Pepsi. Tier 2 sponsors are KICKS 103.3 FM, United Beverages, Jeff Kincaid Insurance Group and The News Herald. Tier 3 sponsors are Campers Inn of Kings Mountain, CoMPAS X-Stream, CoMMA, Judge’s Riverside BBQ, Marquee Cinemas, Morganton Eye Physicians, Republic Services and Siegwerk.

Justin Epley can be reached at or 828-432-8943.

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