ABINGDON, Va. — Get ready to party.
Abingdon’s annual extravaganza — the Virginia Highlands Festival — returns to the streets of Washington County’s courthouse town Friday.
And that means you’ll find juried arts and handmade crafts on the Barter Green plus the opening of the antiques market at the indoor facilities of the Washington County Fairgrounds on Saturday.
A preview of the antiques market happens from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday for a $25 ticket, which also includes a season pass.
Just down the street from the Barter Green, look for the 5th annual Sawdust Festival on Saturday (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) at the Holston Mountain Artisans Craft Shop on Park Street. This free event focuses on woodcrafters.
The town’s popular Farmer’s Market also coincides with events, being held on both Saturdays (8 a.m.-1 p.m.) of the festival — with up to 50 vendors on site, including more than a dozen crafters. The market is also open from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday.
This year, you’ll also find the debut of “The Wolf Crystal” art experience — an original dream of the festival director, Becky Caldwell.
Based on local folklore, the original story of “The Wolf Crystal” is an immersive theater project featuring puppets and pageantry, including dancers, robots and flying drones, animated video and a large interactive sculpture. Come out tonight, 8:30, to the Sculpture Garden of the William King Museum of Art as the first chapter of the festival story unfolds.
“The sheer joy of all of this coming together right now is immense,” Caldwell said. “The Highlands Festival has never done anything like this. It is so unique to us and this moment in time.”
Look for performances of “The Wolf Crystal” at the Washington County Fairgrounds as well as Humphreys Park, both along Main Street, throughout the festival.
Also, the festival parade kicks off on Main Street at 11 a.m. Saturday in downtown Abingdon. Look for a special appearance by Abbi the Wolf and her wolf pack from “The Wolf Crystal” experience.
The festival also includes a photography competition; Civil War weekend; cemetery tour; shows at the Barter Theatre; historic homes tour along Main and Valley streets (Aug. 3, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., $20); and an “Off the Canvas” performing arts show at Emory & Henry College (Aug. 2, 7 p.m.).
Especially for children, the festival’s “Interactive 3D Green Screen Fun and Fantasy Experience” allows kids to star in their own action movie with role-play experts Brian and Marie Bridgeforth plus Nathan Hamilton offering to create a fantasy environment with videos, on-screen special effects and fantasy costumes during the festival at the Humphreys Park on Main Street, across from the Abingdon Post Office.
What’s more, you’ll find concerts, including a show by up-and-coming country music singer Kaitlyn Baker (Aug. 3, 9 p.m., Farmer’s Market Pavilion), with a Johnny Cash tribute band.
“I’m very excited about coming out to Abingdon. It’s just going to be a really good time,” said Baker, 24, who lives near Nashville, Tennessee, and is known for songs like “Burn” and “Blackbird.”
More concerts at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion include From the Edge and Phantom (Friday, 6-11 p.m.); Celtic Ceilidh with Appalachian Highlanders, Sandra Parker, Jennifer Cutting and OCEAN Orchestra (Saturday, 5-11 p.m.); Primitive Quartet (Sunday, 3-5 p.m.); Southern Rebellion and Wyldeheart (Aug. 1, 5-11 p.m.); Folk Soul Revival (Aug. 2, 7-9 p.m.); and Carson Peters with Bella Raye (Aug. 4, 2-4 p.m.).