Feasts and Fests

The next best thing to leaving town may be right around the corner.

Summer Guide Festivals
Ah, summer! That time of the year when wanderlust is strongest and most seductive, when leaves are green and the sun is high; when days are longer, and nights are warm and lazy.

How will you spend the season? Maybe you could head to a favorite vacation destination and get away from it all. Load up the car, chart a course, and take off for sun, sand, and surf . . . Just kidding! Between gas prices and hurricanes, leaving Ohio is harder than it seems. So what to do during the long, lazy summer months? Why not check out some area festivals, and hang onto your cash and sanity?

For starters, forget the obesity epidemic! Tomorrow through Monday (Memorial Day), rib chefs from across the country (and in the case of the lone Aussie competitor, from around the world) will converge on the Tops Great American Rib Cook-Off at Tower City Amphitheater to compete for the approval of judges and attendees alike. But food alone does not a party make, which is why acts like Southside Johnny, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and Blues Traveler, among others, will be rockin' for your amusement. (www.cleveland.com/rib/content.ssf?/rib/bbqa.html)

Ever been to a party you wished would never end? For those who like celebrations to last as long as possible, Open Air in Market Square is for you. From May 27 through August 26, Saturdays will see Market Square Park in Ohio City play host to an open-air-market extravaganza. Vendors will be on hand to trade vintage clothes, art, crafts, and antiques for your hard-earned cash. If gas prices have whittled your budget, you can still enjoy the live music. (www.openairinmarketsquare.com)

It's pretty easy to sum up Chagrin Fall's 23rd Annual Art by the Falls. There are worse ways to spend a weekend than strolling the banks of the Chagrin River, enjoying the works of local and national artists. The festival, which runs June 9-11, has something for everyone, including jewelry, paintings, sculpture, clothing, and many other objets d'art that will serve as conversation pieces and ego-boosters for years to come. (www.valleyartcenter.org)

Art museums are fun, but who wants to deal with a confusing self-guided tour? At Parade the Circle, you needn't worry about getting lost or going the wrong way through an exhibit. Head to University Circle on June 10, grab a seat, sit back, relax, and watch the parade of celebrants cavorting in their wild and crazy homemade creations. We dare you to name an easier way to get your culture on. (www.universitycircle.org)

Even if you're the biggest music hipster in town, the CMJ Rock Hall Music Fest is probably hosting more bands than you can handle. The groups and artists invade Cleveland June 14-18, and the list is huge -- Matisyahu, Mushroomhead, and the Aquabats are just a few of the artists scheduled to perform downtown. Strapped for cash? Take advantage of free daytime performances and hang out at the Festival Village, located on the Rock Hall's front plaza. (www.cmj.com/musicfest/)

Homeland Security's favorite readiness tool finally receives the recognition it deserves, courtesy of the people at Avon. The Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival takes place Father's Day weekend (June 16-18), so bring Dad along for some quality bonding time. It'll be a perfect opportunity for him to see how much territory this ubiquitous tape covers. Activities include duct-tape crafting, art exhibits, and even a fashion show. If all that tape overwhelms you, take some time out to enjoy rides, games, and live music from the likes of the Roadhouse Band, Billy Sullivan, Laredo, and the Colin Dussault Blues Project. (www.avonducttapefestival.com)

Have you ever wondered what happens at ski resorts during the year's snowless months? In the case of Boston Mills, an art show. The weekends of June 23-25 and June 30-July 2, Boston Mills ArtFest turns the ski slopes into an outdoor gallery, replete with every tangible art form imaginable. Adult-only ArtFest Preview Nights are held the night before each show. Sip wine, munch on some hors d'oeuvres, preview the exhibits, and purchase something for the mantel. (www.bmbw.com/artfest/).

Don't be fooled by the July 7 preview for the Ingenuity Festival of Art and Technology. It may feature Case professor Lawrence Krauss giving a seminar called "The Physics of Star Trek," but that doesn't mean that the festival, which runs July 13-16, will be a geek magnet. Opening with Halim El-Dabh's Symphony for 1,000 Drums, this year's festival features works from performance and visual artists, musicians, and technology professionals. The action takes place downtown and in some pretty unlikely places -- look for performers on streets, walkways, and even alleys. (www.ingenuitycleveland.com/)

How much more art can Medina fit into the town square during its annual Art In the Park? Answer: none. The event, which takes place on July 16, rain or shine, features artists from across the U.S. selling their wares at booths surrounding the town's famous gazebo. There's something for everyone, including pottery, paintings, sculpture, and photography. In addition to food vendors, restaurants around the square will be open. (www.medinaartleague.com/art-park.htm)

Ever notice how everyone pretends to be Irish around St. Patrick's Day? For those who actually are (or just want to keep up appearances), the 24th Annual Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival, held July 21-23, is a great way to connect with your roots without the hassle of securing a passport and plane tickets. Cultural exhibits examine facets of Irish culture as well as Irish influence in America. The real showcase, however, is the festival's entertainment lineup. This year's roster is huge, including everyone from Gaelic Storm and Cathie Ryan to local favorites Brigid's Cross, the New Barleycorn, and Brace Yourself Bridget. (www.clevelandirish.org)

Wooster is probably the last place you'd expect to find a New Orleans-style parade, but the Wooster Arts Jazz Fest is just that. The town will transform into a jazz mecca July 23, with music performed throughout the day. The event is also an opportunity to check out arts-and-crafts vendors and sample food from local eateries, such as the Wooster Inn, South Market Bistro, and the Pine Tree Barn. Kids can even make art with teachers and students from area schools. (http://www.woosterartsjazzfest.org/)

What happens when you let a bunch of polka enthusiasts hold annual jam sessions? The East 185th Street Festival, that's what. Since its inception in the 1970s, the festival has continuously expanded its lineup of entertainment, activities, and food and merch vendors, evolving into the current five-day fest, held August 2-6. There's more than polka on the music front, with several genres represented. Ethnic food is on the menu, along with standard carnival fare, and the festival rounds out on its final day with a parade. (http://www.northeastshores.org/festival.htm)

Usually, seeing double is indicative of one too many Mai Tais, but at Twins Day, it's par for the course. The Twinsburg festival brings twins from all over as well as plenty of curious onlookers, who wonder what it's like to be constantly mistaken for a sibling. A parade kicks off the festivities, which run August 5-6. Also scheduled are twin contests, twin talent shows, entertainment, food, and fireworks. One tip: Try to resist the urge to say, "So, you two are twins, huh?" (http://www.twinsdays.org/)

So you read the Time article, saw Al Gore's movie, and heard more than you care to about how society is wrecking the environment. Want to take action but don't know how? Check out the Burning River Fest on August 12 to learn how you can think and act locally, which will, hopefully, go toward helping out globally. Local environmental groups will demonstrate that though we have come a long way (i.e., no more flammable waterways), there is much that can and should be done. But don't worry -- there will be plenty of food, art, and music to keep things from getting too depressing. (http://www.burningriverfest.org/)

Nothing says summer like a cookout, and the hamburger is one of the most recognized symbols of this seasonal pastime. Akron celebrates beef on a bun August 12-13 with the National Hamburger Festival. Activities for kids and families will take place throughout, while cooking demonstrations and competitions for the best burger should appeal to backyard chefs. Festivities include a hamburger-eating contest, bobbing for burgers, and the Hamburger Hearings, a mock trial at which four families will make the case that their ancestors invented the grilled-meat sandwich. Sounds like a tasty time. (www.hamburgerfestival.com/)

In Cleveland's Little Italy, the Feast of the Assumption is as much about Italian pride as it is a religious feast day. Rides, games, and live music are pleasant distractions, but the main attraction is the food. Imagine a place where pizza, pasta, sausage sandwiches, lemon ice, and cannoli line the streets -- that place is here, August 12-15. A parade and fireworks are also planned. (For details, call 216-421-2995.)

Has someone stolen your kishka? If you can't convince them to give it back, head down to the Slavic Village Harvest Festival August 26-27. Even if you can't find the beloved sausage, you'll run into plenty of vendors selling kielbasa, pierogis, and beer. It's not all about ethnic food, though. There's also Eastern European music and dancing, not to mention the pierogi-eating contest and the kielbasa cook-off. Just make sure you do your dancing before you stuff yourself. (www.slavicvillage.org/)

How long would it take to eat a selection of the city's best food? Four days, if you go to the Bigelow Chevrolet Taste of Cleveland, September 1-4. It'll be a smorgasbord of samples -- everything from exotic ethnic dishes to comfort food -- offered in easy-to-eat bites. A culinary showcase will spotlight local celebrity chefs, and national musical acts will sing and swing for your amusement. It'll be a good opportunity to dance off that tiny, tiny food. (www.cleveland.com/tasteofcleveland/)

The summer festival season winds up September 8-10 with the Lake County PerchFest -- featured on the Travel Channel for the past two years. It's Ohio's largest fish fry, with up to 10,000 fish fries sold in 30 hours. Entertainment is professional -- Sonny Geraci & the Outsiders -- and amateur, the latter being a karaoke contest with a $1,000 purse. If you can't carry a tune, carry some bait for the "Ohio's Best Perch-Fishing Champion" contest; it could end up netting you the $1,000 first-place prize. (http://www.perchfest.net/)

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