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Winter events will keep Southeast hopping

Perhaps you haven't recovered from Christmas yet, and now you've got to get into the groove for New Year's Eve. But that's no reason to postpone planning your schedule of fun doings for the next three months.

The Southeast Tourism Society, based in Atlanta, has released its list of the Top 40 events for winter, and there's enough on it to keep any festivalgoer hopping all over the region. Elvis' birthday? That's in less than two weeks. Speedweeks at Daytona Beach? Early February. And then it's almost time for the Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon.

So catch your breath and pack your bags; there's just no time to get out of the festive spirit. Here's a sample of the major events from the Tourism Society list:

January

MONDAY-FEB. 28: Winter Carnival, Hilton Head Island, S.C. Featuring opera, jazz and big-band concerts, golf and mixed-doubles tennis tournaments, a bocci tournament, 5K run and winter walk, the Fiesta Italiana Food and Wine Tasting. (800) 424-3387.

JAN. 5-9: Elvis Presley Birthday Celebration, Memphis. Celebration of the King's 65th birthday features a Moody Blue Dance Party, after-hours tour of Graceland Mansion and the annual proclamation of Elvis Presley Day. (901) 332-3322, http://www.elvis-

presley.com.

JAN. 21: Lowcountry Oyster Festival, Mount Pleasant, S.C. This 18th annual festival features 65,000 pounds of steamed oysters as well as entertainment, contests and children's games. (843) 577-4030.

February

FEB. 3-25: Native Islander Gullah Celebration, Hilton Head Island, S.C. Showcases arts, crafts, history, music and food of the Gullah culture _ a blend of West African, European and American Indian cultures. (843) 689-9314 or (877) 650-0676, http://www.

gullahcelebration.com.

FEB. 3-APRIL 29: Spring Concerts at Cypress Gardens. Big-band music with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra; country with the Grand Ole Opry and "Whispering" Bill Anderson, Glenn Campbell, Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass, and the Bellamy Brothers; and rock 'n' roll with Bill Haley's Comets, the Crickets and the Del-Vikings. (800) 282-2123.

FEB. 10-18: Speedweeks, Daytona Beach. Nine races at Daytona International Speedway as well as events and festivals for racing fans. (904) 255-0415 or (800) 854-1234, http://www.daytonabeach.com.

FEB. 10: Fiesta Day, Ybor City. Street festival celebrating the ethnic roots of Tampa's National Historic Landmark District. Features fine arts and crafts, cultural exhibits, ethnic delicacies, children's activity area and the Parade of Flags. (813) 247-4951, http://www.ybor.

org.

FEB. 10-27: Mississippi Gulf Coast Mardi Gras. The first Mardi Gras parade on the Mississippi Gulf Coast was in 1699. The tradition continues with parades every weekend in gulf towns, including Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Gautier, Pascagoula, Ocean Springs, Biloxi, Gulfport, Pass Christian and d'Iberville. (800) 237-9493, http://www.

gulfcoast.org.

FEB. 15-17: Smoky Mountains Storytelling Festival, Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Includes a night of cowboy poetry and music. (800) 251-9100, http://www.mypigeonforge.com.

FEB. 16-18: Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, Charleston, S.C. Featuring original wildlife art, carvings, sculpture, photography and antique sporting collectibles from more than 500 artists. (843) 723-1748, http://www.sewe.com.

FEB. 23-27: Mardi Gras in Cajun Country, Lafayette, La. Lafayette's carnival lets the good times roll with parades, balls, dancing in the streets and Cajun music and food. (337) 232-3737, (800) 346-1958, http://www.lafayette

travel.com.

FEB. 24-25: Battle of Moores Creek Bridge, Currie, N.C. The Feb. 27, 1776, victory at the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge ended royal authority in North Carolina. The 225th anniversary will be relived with living history encampments, firearms demonstrations and music programs. (910) 283-5591, http://www.nps.gov/mocr.

FEB. 25-27: Gulf Coast Carnival Association Mardi Gras, Biloxi, Miss. Floats and bands take to the streets of Biloxi to spread cheer and throw coins and beads. (228) 432-8806.

March

MARCH 1-11: Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City. Daily musical performances, fine arts, petting zoo, photography, horticulture, crafts, the Grand Strawberry Parade, exhibits of agriculture and strawberries for eating. (813) 752-9194. Contact: Patsy Brooks. http://www.flstrawberryfestival.

com.

MARCH 2-11: Bike Week, Daytona Beach. Nearly a half-million motorcycle enthusiasts gather to enjoy the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Expo, concerts, rallies, swap meet and a full week of racing at Daytona International Speedway. (904) 255-0415 or (800) 854-1234, http://www.officialbikeweek.com.

MARCH 3-4: Kentucky Crafted: The Market 2001, Louisville. Featuring crafts, food, musicians and actors. (888) 592-7238, http://www.kycraft.org.

MARCH 9-17: Irish Celebration "Wearing of the Green," Erin, Tenn. Celebration includes a leprechaun, grand parade, carnival, crafts, music, fish fry and barbecue. (931) 289-5100.

MARCH 7-APRIL 7: Natchez Spring Pilgrimage, Natchez, Miss. Thirty-one of the South's pre-Civil War mansions open for special daily tours. Includes musical and comic entertainment and the Confederate Pageant. (800) 647-6742, http://

www.natchezpilgrimage.com.

MARCH 10-11 AND 17-18: Highland Maple Festival, Monterey, Va. Includes tours of maple camps, arts and crafts vendors, live entertainment and mountains of buckwheat cakes and sausages smothered with Highland Maple Syrup. (540) 468-2550, http://www.highland

county.org.

MARCH 14-18: A Mountain Quiltfest, Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The fest features contests, lessons and lectures by expert quilters. (800) 251-9100, http://www.mypigeon

forge.com.

MARCH 15-APRIL 14: Festival of Houses and Gardens, Charleston, S.C. More than 125 homes, some lived in by famous historical figures such as John Rutledge, who helped write the U.S. Constitution. (843) 723-1623, http://www.historiccharleston.org.

MARCH 16-17: Louisiana Redbud Festival, Vivian, La. Welcome the coming spring with a jambalaya supper, an armadillo race, 5K run/walk, Kiwanis Bull-A-Rama, treasure hunt, carnival, gospel music concert, softball tournament, storytellers, arts and crafts booths. (318) 375-4708.

MARCH 16-25: Georgia's International Cherry Blossom Festival, Macon. The 245,000 Yoshino cherry trees will burst forth in blossom. Events include a dance contest, excursions, historic tours, multicultural exhibits, sailboat races, hot-air balloons, food and children's activities. (912) 751-7429, http://

www.cherryblossom.com.

+ + +

Speedweeks at Daytona Beach, Feb. 10-18, includes nine races at Daytona International Speedway as well as events and festivals for racing fans.

Another kind of vehicle dominates Daytona International Speedway during Bike Week in March, when nearly a half-million motorcycle enthusiasts gather for an expo, concerts, rallies, a swap meet and a full week of racing.

The Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City includes a parade as well as musical performances, fine arts, a petting zoo, photography, horticulture, crafts and, of course, strawberries.

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