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Fall in the Pee Dee: Festive Ways to Herald the Season

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 35 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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Pee Dee Fall Flower Show
Colorful autumn decor takes the spotlight at the Pee Dee Fall Flower and Plant Show.

If you've never paid a visit to the Pee Dee, fall is a prime time to do so. A mix of scenic rural stretches, rambling dark rivers, mossy swamps, charming small towns and, at its heart, the bustling mid-size city of Florence, the region has plenty to commend it any time of year.  

But when temps grow mild in autumn, fun celebrations pop up everywhere so you can immerse yourself in the season.

Pee Dee Fall Plant & Flower Festival

The colorful Pee Dee Plant & Flower Festival in Florence overflows with flowers and plants at the open-air Pee Dee State Farmers Market during this three-day fall festival.

It’s quite a sight: a vast kaleidoscope of mums and other fall flowers and plants along with a legion of pumpkins, gourds and other seasonal icons. Green thumbs will enjoy the yard and garden decor and master gardeners will be on hand to answer your most pressing questions about fall planting.

Crafters and food vendors will be serving up their wares. For a special treat, visit the on-site red barn for a decidedly non-Southern, but amazingly delicious Hawaiian meal from Aloha Kitchen. There will also be local crafts and, as always, plenty of certified SC-grown produce to take home for supper.

 

Dizzy Gillespie sculpture
Autumn is prime time for the SC Jazz Festival, which pays tribute to jazz great and native son, Dizzy Gillespie.

South Carolina Jazz Festival

Each October, there’s music in the air—literally—as the quaint town of Cheraw pulls out all the stops to honor its favorite native son, the late, great Dizzy Gillespie.

The jazz legend is at the heart of this much-anticipated annual South Carolina Jazz Festival during which an impressive lineup of musicians appears around town to offer up sweet sounds and tributes to John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, American jazz trumpeter, composer and bandleader, who was born in Cheraw in 1917.

There is also a sidewalk chalk competition in the tradition of 16th century Italian street painting and the trees of this picturesque town get dressed up, too, for what is always a memorable and inspiring celebration.

 

Man with pecan festival mugs
Celebrate South Carolina's pecan tradition with pecan novelties, pecan treats, and more. (True Light Photography)

South Carolina Pecan, Music and Food Festival

The first Saturday in November, downtown Florence goes completely nuts during the South Carolina Pecan, Music and Food Festival.

Once a major producer of pecans, the city is home to the SC Pecan Trail, and the festival is another way residents pay homage to that important part of their agricultural history. Aside from the inspiration, this is a thoroughly modern event that draws more than 50,000 attendees from across the state and beyond.

Vendors are in abundance to make sure everyone gets their fill of pecan treats and just about anything else you are hungry or thirsty for. A Kids Fun Zone, art and culinary contests, amusements and a 5K, 10K or USATF-certified half marathon that winds through the town are just a sampling of all that goes down that day.

The musical component gets top billing, with eight stages of live entertainment representing multiple genres. A well-known headline act traditionally closes out the festival, ensuring everybody goes home on a high note.

 

Darlington Raceway
Be part of the high-octane revelry at the Southern 500, a Darlington Raceway fall tradition.

Southern 500 Fall Weekend

The legendary Darlington Raceway, known also as the “Track Too Tough to Tame,” pulls out all the stops for its annual fall NASCAR extravaganza: the iconic Southern 500.

Among the many planned ticketed festivities for Labor Day weekend is the Pre-Race Experience featuring a walk along the frontstretch of the track, a signing at the start line, driver introductions and a concert performed by a major musical act.

There are also plenty of family activities all along the midway such as dance groups, DJs and photo stops. Don't miss this action-packed, fast-paced Pee Dee tradition.

 

Pumpkin patch
Fields will be ripe for fall pumpkin picking at McLeod Farms.

McLeod Farms U-pick Pumpkin Patch & Corn Maze

Everybody’s favorite Pee Dee farm gets decked out for fall each October with a U-pick pumpkin patch and corn maze that seems to go on for miles.

Hit the back roads and head toward the town of McBee (emphasis on the first syllable, please) and see the amazing things that happen when a prolific peach farm eases into the off-season. It’s truly all things autumn with wagon rides, apple cider, pumpkin rolls, a corn pit and much more.

Make a day of it and herald the season in this most fitting of ways. 

 

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 35 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.