Best Fly-In Festivals and Fairs: Where Entertainment Meets Aviation

Many late-summer music and art and cultural events are conveniently close to airports.

We are in the thick of the season for large outdoor events, from music and art festivals to fairs focusing on community, agriculture, and local culture. Events like these help keep people’s calendars full and their spirits high as we get into the so-called “dog days” of summer.

Many of these happenings are close to airports, making them ideal destinations for pilots. In some cases, as with the annual Burning Man gathering in the Nevada desert, the airport is essentially part of the party. Sometimes a community celebration’s theme can take a sharp turn toward aviation, like when a certain squadron of blue jets makes its traditional visit to Seattle’s Seafair.

The following are events you can fly to or, in a couple of cases, practically taxi to the entrance.

Fort Desolation Fest

August 12-14 Torrey, Utah, Wayne Wonderland Airport (38U)

While the term has been used in literature and elsewhere, the people running the festival say Fort Desolation is not really a place, but an idea and a sort of commitment to getting outside, traveling off the beaten path and seeking adventure. Performers include Elle King, rayLand Baxter, Amos Lee, Band of Heathers and more.

Dutchess County Fair

August 23-28, Rhinebeck, New York, Hudson Valley Regional Airport (KPOU)

This six-day fair features exhibits and demonstrations in agriculture, horticulture, and turn-of-the-century (the last century) living. There is even a gas-powered engine show and a working blacksmith’s shop. Entertainment ranges from racing pigs, a petting zoo, and a Frisbee-dog show to juggling, a wild west showdown, and bands including the Long Shots and Vocal Trash.

Burning Man

August 28 - September 5, Gerlach, Nevada, Black Rock City Airport (88NV)

What began with an 8-foot effigy set afire on a San Francisco beach with a few people watching in 1986 has become a 70,000-plus gathering organized around 10 activist principles including self expression, civic responsibility, immediacy, and participation. Over the decades, the event has become well-known for its performances, exhibits, and large-scale art projects. Still, watching the giant wooden statue burn is the highlight. The dramatic figure has been as tall as 105 feet but its height varies year to year.


September 16-18, Horse Shoe, North Carolina, Asheville Regional Airport (KAVL)

This outdoor arts festival unfolds around psychedelic trance music and is meant to be immersive, so organizers discourage leaving the site once you arrive. They tell participants to bring everything they will need for three days in the wilderness, including your own water. While food and merchandise vendors will be at the campground venue, attendees should not count on them for critical supplies. There are also a few things you cannot bring: your dog, drugs, alcohol, or “renegade sound systems.” 

Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love

September 29 - October 2, Marfa, Texas, Marfa Municipal Airport (KMRF)

Marfa is a place for people who prefer the outdoors, and the festival venue, El Cosmico, reflects this. A hotel where many of the rooms are vintage trailers, tents, and teepees and the common areas and art spaces are outside, El Cosmico bills itself as “a hub for occasional happenings that elevate the mind, body, and creative spirit.” Cat Power, Ben Kweller, Marty Stuart, Cimafunk, and more are scheduled to perform during the festival.  


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