Words by Paige Townley
Unique and fun annual events are part of the culture in Decatur-Morgan County. Every year the area hosts sought-after events that draw visitors from across the state and beyond. Here are five of the don’t-want-to-miss events happening each year in Decatur.
Festival of the Cranes
Festival of the Cranes highlights Decatur’s natural appeal. Held annually in early January at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, the festival is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch more than 20,000 Sandhill cranes and 20-plus Whooping cranes that are spending the winter at the Refuge. Attending the festival allows visitors to get an up close look at the magnetic birds, attend workshops, go on nature walks, and partake in a range of other activities.
Mardi Gras may have originated further south in the state, but the Carnegie Carnival lays claim to the biggest Mardi Gras festival in north Alabama. Held on Mardi Gras each year, Carnegie Carnival is a full day of events in downtown Decatur that fill the streets with revelry. The day culminates each year with the Carnegie Carnival Parade, which keeps the good times rolling with floats, music, and more.
Daikin Japanese Festival
Every May, local company Daikin America celebrates the company’s Japanese heritage by hosting the Daikin Japanese Festival. The annual event includes all sorts of live entertainment, Japanese cultural displays, an art contest, and even hot-air balloon rides. Just as importantly, the festival each year is free and fun for the entire family.
Alabama Jubilee Hot-Air Balloon Classic
Color fills the sky every Memorial Day Weekend thanks to the Alabama Jubilee Hot-Air Balloon Classic. Pilots from across the country make their way to Decatur every May for the well-known event, which has them racing and competing in various events. In addition to the balloon races, the free festival includes live entertainment, an arts and crafts show, antique car show, international food court, and more. The grand finale of the weekend is a “balloon glow” and fireworks show on Sunday evening.
River Clay Fine Arts Festival
The third weekend of October means beautiful art and the River Clay Fine Arts Festival. Artists from across the region bring their unique wares to Decatur each year for the festival, which feature mediums ranging from ceramics and glass to photography, mixed media, and metalwork. While perusing the juried fine arts festival in downtown Decatur, visitors can also check out student art exhibits and children can partake in a range of art activities.
Support and funding provided by the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area.