Celebrating The Carolinas at Carowinds’ State Line Celebration
All the way back in 1973, E. Pat Hall opened an amusement park that was situated on the border of North & South Carolina, eventually giving Carowinds the motto (quite literally) of “Where the Carolinas Come Together.” Holding the distinction as the only amusement park to reside in two states, the park takes influence from both of its homes, and this dual-state heritage was on full display with Carowinds’ newest festival, the State Line Celebration.
This new springtime event takes cues from past Carowinds events, including Taste of the Carolinas (2015-2017) and Great Carolina Fest (2018). Featuring a wide variety of live entertainment and a special festival menu prepared by Carowinds’ culinary team, both North and South Carolina are able to take center stage at the State Line Celebration.
Upon entering the park, guests will likely first notice that the state line that divides the park’s celebration plaza has been painted. The left side (South Carolina) has been painted a blueish indigo color, meant to mimic the color of the Palmetto State’s flag, while the right side (North Carolina) is painted a lighter shade of blue, a subtle nod (at least to this University of North Carolina grad) to the “Tar Heel” state.
Unlike past festivals, the majority of the “action” is centered around the Celebration Plaza stage directly in front of the park’s north entrance. Each state has three food booths, reaching only as far from the state line as the former Rip Roarin’ Rapids entrance (North Carolina) and just past the Carolina Skytower (South Carolina). It’s a tight footprint for the festival, and has created some unique entertainment opportunities, including a “dueling guitars” show that is located just mere steps inside the park entrance.
As part of State Line Celebration, Carowinds’ main entertainment stage area has been decorated with astroturf and a wide variety of adirondack chairs. While I really wish this addition was permanent — because the vibes it creates are immaculate and very “Carolinas” — unfortunately, the Grand Carnivale parade will need to utilize that space this summer, so up the astroturf and chairs must come!
Around the festival footprint, you’ll find a variety of photo opportunities that feature chairs, pallet walls, and other decorative ornaments.
These are all great places to “set a spell” and take in the atmosphere of the park around you.
As part of the State Line Celebration, Carowinds features three “limited run” shows – Brew Beatz, Carolina Roots, and Carolina Rocks, in addition to a juggling act, and wide variety of “streetmosphere” characters who interact with park guests. We caught bits and pieces of all of the live entertainment, and as has been the case in recent years, Carowinds has knocked it out of the park once again when it comes to live entertainment.
Originally at Carowinds as part of Great Carolina Fest in 2018, the drumming brewers — or brewing drummers, not sure which — of Brew Beatz have made their way back to Carowinds after a brief hiatus. Telling the “story” of how their special concoction is brewed, these four talented percussionists utilize a wide variety of unconventional instruments to create their music, including barrels, kegs, wooden spoons, moscow mule mugs, and buckets. If you’ve never seen Brew Beatz and you happen to be at Carowinds for the State Line Celebration, make sure that you make time to see this show!
Carolina Roots takes a unique stage set-up, on the previously mentioned stages that flank Carowinds’ main entrance path. These two musicians take the concept of “dueling pianos” and swap the keys for the strings, playing back and forth off of one another with an acoustic guitar set. From what I saw of Carolina Roots, the two guitarists were great, and had a good rapport with one another. I do think the unconventional venue makes for a bit of an awkward set-up, as many park guests were simply walking by the duo, either into the park to start their afternoon, or heading home after a day of coasters and delicious food. (I have plenty of “oblivious park guests walking in front of someone taking photos” pictures to prove it!)
The third musical act for State Line Celebration – Carolina Rocks – plays two alternating sets during their shows, one featuring the music of North Carolina artists, and one featuring – you might have guessed it — the music of artists from South Carolina. Featuring four vocalists and six background musicians, it’s one of the larger musical acts that I’ve seen at Carowinds. And while I only caught most of the group’s South Carolina set, which was cut short due to weather conditions, the group’s range, featuring artists like Hootie & The Blowfish, Edwin McCain, and Rob Thomas, was quite impressive! I hate I missed the North Carolina set!
Carolina Rocks is truly not a show to skip during the State Line Celebration. Grab a bite to eat or a cold beverage, slide into one of those adirondack chairs, and enjoy some music made famous by Carolinian artists!
Another act not to be missed are the juggling duo, whose name I didn’t happen to catch. They weren’t on the entertainment schedule, and probably for good reason — story goes that the jugglers “crashed” the party. Best described as a pair of ‘frat guys,” the jugglers play back and forth off of one another, and there’s some audience participation. From the portion of the show that I saw, there were some impressive stunts, including balancing on cornhole boards atop a cylindrical roller, and juggling lawn darts back and forth. Not for the faint of heart!
The “Celebration Planning Committee” streetmosphere characters were also a ton of fun, and were constantly interacting with guests throughout the festival. I didn’t meet all of them, but there was a Pilot, a racecar driver, a coach, and “Myrtle Peach from Myrtle Beach,” who loved playing mini-golf. Many of the characters had interactive activites for guests, including Paper Airplane tosses, racing, minature golf and more! If you make it to State Line Celebration, be sure to interact with these characters. They’re a ton of fun!
What would a festival be without food? Carowinds’ culintary team crafted an 18-item menu for the State Line Celebration, 9 dishes each inspired by North and South Carolina. Of course, there were multiple barbecue options, with sauces certain to appease Eastern North Carolinians (Vinegar), Western North Carolinians (Tomato), and South Carolinians (Mustard…which…why?!) as well as seafood, fried delicacies, and a handful of desserts. Each of the three food booths on the respective sides of the state line also featured a number of North Carolina and South Carolina beers and wines for those of age, and southern staple Sweet Tea for those who weren’t.
The best way to experience the food at the State Line Celebration is by purchasing a tasting card ($39,99 for six tastes, $59.99 for nine tastes). Each of the 18 items is available a la carte, but with several menu items reaching upwards of $9.50 for a sample (albeit a very generous portion) – the tasting card definitel provides the best bang for your buck. We had one tasting card, and couldn’t even make it through all six items during our visit!
The menu is as follows:
Tar Heel Tastes:
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- Carolina Burnt End Sliders
- Carolina Tangy Pulled Pork Sliders
- Smoked Chicken Leg Quarter (with choice of NC BBQ Sauce)
- Lexington Style Ribs
- Fried Pickles with Spicy Aioli
Outer Banks Bites:
- Fried Catfish
- Fried Shrimp
- Sonker (Like a Blueberry Cobbler)
And in South Carolina:
- Palmetto Smoky Sausage
- Carolina Gold Pork BBQ Sliders (Mustard-Based)
- Hugenot Torte
- Chicken Bog
- Low Country Boil
- Lady Baltimore Cake
And finally, Peachy Keen:
- Carolina Gold Rice (Chicken, Chow Chow, Rice)
- Carolina Slaw Dog
- Fried Peach Fritters
In total, I had five samples. The standouts for me were the SC BBQ Pork Sliders (even though I still don’t “get” mustard sauce) and Low Country Boil. The Fried Pickles were good — I loved that they were more spear like than pickle chips, and the aioli was outstanding, and the Peach Fritters were an amazing dessert. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Carolina Slaw Dog — the chili that came on it was loaded with beans, and it’s just not my thing. It was also colossal and impossible to eat without a fork! If I had enough appetite for the sixth taste, the Fried Shrimp were getting amazing reviews, as were the Burnt End Sliders.
If you’ve come down here, scrolled past all of the food photos looking for a verdict on whether or not you should visit Carowinds during the State Line Celebration — the answer is a resounding yes. Carowinds is more than just a park with world class coasters. Their food is top notch, and the entertainment for this event, especially Brew Beatz and Carolina Rocks, are among some of the best regional park entertainment I’ve ever seen. Like we mentioned earlier — grab a bite to eat, a refreshing North or South Carolina brew, and an adirondack chair, and just take it all in. You’ll be glad you did.
State Line Celebration takes place at Carowinds during this week (April 11-15) for Spring Break, and then Saturdays and Sundays through May 8. For more information, visit Carowinds’ website, and follow the park on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram