Humboldt County is a hot spot for a diverse selection of festivals that draws crowds from near and far every summer. Very few places in the world as remote as our county enjoy such a packed season of fun. Here are a few of the offerings out there for anyone who finds themselves in the emerald oasis behind the Redwood Curtain.

The North Coast Growers' Association Farmers Markets

Humboldt County is a rural agricultural haven that enjoys a robust, year-round farmers market culture, thanks to the people at the North Coast Growers' Association (NCGA). As with the growing season, summer and fall are the busy months for these markets. Arcata's Saturday market on the plaza opens up its summer season in the first week of April and is your best bet for consistent live music in the sunshine. However, June sees the opening of three other markets that are solid destinations for open-air tunes: the Old Town Eureka Market (Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.), the Fortuna Market (also Tuesdays, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.), and the Eureka Henderson Center Market, which runs on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Friday Night Market

This satellite farmers market/street fair is also a production of NCGA, and runs from July through September, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., in Old Town Eureka. Much like the other markets, it features vendors with fresh produce, as well as hot food carts, and is known for its live music and street performances.

click to enlarge Kinetic Grand Championship - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo By Mark Mckenna
  • Kinetic Grand Championship

Kinetic Grand Championship

A Humboldt County tradition for more than 50 years, the Kinetic Grand Championship celebrates many elements that make this county special: eccentric artwork married to our unique local flavor. This three-day race kicks off on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, with participants rolling out their sculptures in the morning on the Arcata Plaza in anticipation of the noon(ish) start of the race. Those sculptures must be: artistically designed, entirely human powered and amphibious. The race itself ends on Memorial Day in the Victorian Village of Ferndale and is a long-beloved spectacle that has attracted international attention for decades.

Arcata Bay Oyster Festival

Returning to the Arcata Plaza this year, the Arcata Bay Oyster Festival is an all-day event featuring vendors with food, beer, arts and crafts, lots of live music and room for dancing, and an emphasis on the bivalves that give this June 10 event its name. Three-plus decades into its history, Oyster Fest still has all the best family fun, including an oyster calling contest, and local restaurants vying for the Best Oyster award.

Fernstock: Battle of the Bands

The Humboldt Fair Association and North Coast Journal, Inc. present this battle royale of local music groups on June 18. Come check it out as 15 acts on two stages compete for a performance slot at the Humboldt County Fair, as well as a grand prize of $5,000. During the gigs, you can enjoy food and crafts from local vendors, as well as plenty of activities to keep the kiddies happy.

Baduwa't Festival - PHOTO BY MARK LARSON
  • Photo By Mark Larson
  • Baduwa't Festival

Baduwa't Festival

In the language of the local Indigenous Wiyot people, Baduwa't is the word for the Mad River, which flows through the town of Blue Lake, where this festival is held from June 22 to July 2. Staged by Blue Lake's own Dell'Arte theatrical school and guild, it's a heady mix of circus magic, live theater and music.

Summer Arts and Music

Once set in Benbow, the premier summer gathering for Southern Humboldt County has moved to the picturesque Cook's Valley Campground on County Line Ranch on June 24-25. Vendors ply their arts and crafts and food, while live music plays on the main stage, the lawn stage, the lunar stage and "Kidlandia," which is as family friendly as it gets. The music ranges from folk to funk, EDM to world music.

Annie and Mary Day

This beloved Blue Lake event takes place on July 9, and is named after two bookkeepers who worked for the now-defunct Arcata Mad River Rail Line in the beginning of the 20th century. This Sunday fun-day in Perigot Park is usually packed with a car show, vendors, food, a parade and lots of live music. Best of all, it's free.

click to enlarge Fortuna Rodeo - PHOTO BY SIENNA RADELFINGER
  • Photo By Sienna Radelfinger
  • Fortuna Rodeo

Fortuna Rodeo

Rodeo week in Fortuna runs from July 10-16, and with it come many activities and traditions that are beloved to this town, including a parade and carnival, quadiators (yes, a blend of quads and gladiators), bull and horse riding, a junior rodeo and lots of food, music and beer.

Northern Nights

2023 marks the 10th anniversary of this music festival, held this year at Cook's Valley Campground from July 14-16. This celebration of electronic dance music, performed in a forested setting right next to the Eel River, is popular with campers and glampers from around the world who are drawn to the beat and the lights.

Humboldt Folklife Festival

Held at the Dell'Arte headquarters in Blue Lake from July 26-29, this beloved Humboldt County institution attracts thousands of attendants, and is a celebration of folk, roots, blues, country music and more. Expect family-friendly fun in an outdoor stage setting amid the perfect Humboldt summer.

Humboldt County Fair

Taking place at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds in Ferndale from Aug. 17-27, the Humboldt County Fair has everything one would associate with an old-fashioned fair: horse races, livestock auctions, carnival rides, live music, delicious food and much more. All the fun and games spread over two long weekends and some change.

Buddy Brown Blues Festival

The Humboldt Folklife Society and the city of Blue Lake hit it out of the park again (Perigot Park, to be exact), with the Buddy Brown Blues Festival. This event, which also serves as a fundraiser for the Folklife Society, takes place Aug. 19 and is named after the late hometown musician Richard "Buddy Brown" Duggins. It serves up a day full of local blues and folk bands, as well as food and outdoor fun for the entire family.

Hops in Humboldt

Kicking off its 19th year Aug. 26, this Fortuna festival rounds up some of the best breweries in the county for a day of beer tasting in the sun. In addition to the many offerings and samples from local beer makers, there is tons of live music, as well as local vendors hawking their wares, including blown glass creations, unique crafts and clothing, and tasty food. Consider it a paradise for any microbrew fanatic.

click to enlarge North Country Fair - PHOTO BY MARK LARSON
  • Photo By Mark Larson
  • North Country Fair

North Country Fair

Held on the Arcata Plaza on the third weekend of September, Sept. 16-17, the North Country Fair has been a Humboldt County tradition since 1979. This family event has kept a fairly consistent formula over the years, with Saturday and Sunday seeing the plaza filled with various vendors, while music stages provide live, local music at the edges of the action. There is a Samba parade, as well as a kid-friendly All Species Parade, in which participants are encouraged to dress up like their favorite critters, including face paint. In recent years, fair organizers have pushed to make this a zero-waste event, with fastidious separation of compostables and recycled material from the general garbage, and various promotions encouraging reusable containers for drinks. Food, crafts and beer are all available for attendees, and admission is free.

click to enlarge Apple Harvest Festival - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo By Mark Mckenna
  • Apple Harvest Festival

Apple Harvest Festival

Held in early October, this small-town festival celebrates rural Humboldt life, with a particular emphasis on the titular fruit. It features a Main Street fair in downtown Fortuna, with craft and food vendors, as well as lots of live music. Traditionally, the fire department puts on an open house and some years have included a hay wagon ride. Don't forget about Clendenen's Cider Works, which features food, live music, and cider and apple tastings from the family orchards on the edge of town. No matter where you go, you will find apples galore.

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Collin Yeo

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