Fistful of Festivals: 15 Big Celebrations to Round Out a Great Cleveland Summer
Ingenuity, Cleveland’s Festival of Art and Technology
What do aerospace engineers at NASA have in common with a Cleveland psychobilly band like the Whiskey Daredevils? Well, you can find both at Ingenuity, Cleveland’s Festival of Art and Technology–a weekend-long celebration of art, music and technology, designed for audiences of any age, staged in the center of downtown Cleveland. More than 70 organizations and about 1,000 arts and technology groups (from UrbanArtz to the CSU Chemistry Department to Three Olives Vodka) come together for the unique festival that is celebrated throughout Cleveland’s streets, alleys, and performance venues. It has piano competitions, virtual entertainment, poetry readings, technology lectures, design contests, film presentations, tons of great bands, and a crazy amount of bizarre acts and exhibits. High technology firms and major colleges and universities are presented alongside acclaimed artists to create a dazzling display of exciting new work you won’t find anywhere in the country. Cost: Single day is $10, weekend $15, children 12 and under are free.
Italian-American Council Festival
Akron, Lock 3
The tastes and smells of Italy mix with the culture and atmosphere of Akron and its downtown Lock 3 Park at the Council of Italian-American Societies’ 62nd annual Italian-American Festival. Dabble in wine tastings, Italian cooking classes, bocce tournaments, car shows and plenty of people watching, scored to a background of bands like Hotel California (an Eagles tribute outfit) and the Sands Trio (a homage to the Rat Pack). The Budweiser Clydesdales even parade down Main Street on Saturday (3-5pm) and Sunday (12:30pm). For the bold, we suggest the pizza eating contents on Sunday (1:30-2:30pm), where pie and man fight for supremacy. A Catholic Mass is held on Sunday at 11am (where all gluttony is forgiven) followed by a spaghetti dinner (where all gluttony begins anew). Cost: Free
Wellington Cheese Festival
Slicing and dicing oodles of dairy delights, the City of Wellington cuts more cheese than any healthy Ohio town probably should. Luckily, it’s all in honor of the annual Cheese Festival–a celebration of crafts, rides, live entertainment and most of all Wellington’s cheesy history (throughout the 19th Century Wellington was known as the country’s Cheese Capital with 40 factories). Enjoy the grub–cheese on a stick, cheese hotdogs, cheese popcorn, cheese pizza and a variety of unique dairy blends–while participating in a bevy of activities (which in the past included) the Cheese Olympics (including a cheese shot put), Kids Cheesefest (mold chunks of Velveeta into . . . anything), and the Cheese Festival Parade (full of floats, marching bands and your favorite farm animals). Cheesecake bake-offs, kid rides, a petting zoo and a slew of food and beverage booths round out this tasty event.
27th Annual Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival
Over a quarter of a century of great and green Cleveland-Irish heritage are honored this July in Berea. The Annual Irish Cultural Festival celebrates Northern Ohio’s lively and historic Irish traditions with more than 20 bands on nine stages, dancing schools, live theatre, a children’s area and tons more. Irish and American specialties like bangers, bridies, boxty, Irish stew and corned beef are available in the food court. Then relax to the high-spirited magic of musicians from Ireland and America like the Hedge Band, the Irish Descendants, Cherish the Ladies and the Screaming Orphans. Outdoor Mass on Sunday is always a festival highlight, with renowned Celtic harpist Dennis Doyle. Cost: General admission is $10 and parking is free; kids under 10 are free too.
Balloon Classic Invitational/Jackson-Belden Food Fest & Fireworks
July 31-August 2
Kent State Stark Campus
More than 75 excitingly slow and lumbering hot air balloons compete for big money ($19,000 and other prizes) at the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Balloon Classic Invitational in Canton. And while these inflatable aircraft compete for your love and cash, the Jackson-Belden Food Fest will win over your stomach next door. Around 25 vendors (both from in and out of state) cook up first-rate foods for balloon gawkers–sausage and pulled pork sandwiches, homemade ice cream, ribs, apple and cherry cobblers, wine and beer, and yes, even corn dogs. Some 100,000+ people will come to enjoy the exquisite fair food while watching balloons like “Piggles,” the floating piggy bank, “Touchdown,” an enormous flying football, and “Off the Wall,” a Humpty Dumpty balloon. Plus the festival will have its share of fiery explosions — at the Saturday night fireworks display for sure, but also at the Friday Night Glow, when the balloons tether to the ground and fill their envelopes with propane. Cost: Admission is free; $5 for parking after 3pm.
Enshrinement Festival Ribs Burnoff
Stark County Fairgrounds
Canton is a town that loves its pigskin. So it only seems fitting that three glorious days in August should be set aside for rib revelry. The Ribs Burnoff (part of the 15 events over the ten-day Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival celebration) attracts award-winning rib runners from all over the country (including local and regional food vendors), serving up fine swine for around 130,000 people. Eaters come to munch on slab after slab of tasty ribs and be entertained by nationally-renowned also includes attractions like an expanded children’s entertainment area with face painting, caricaturist, balloon twisters, a Fantasy Football Zone, master sand sculptor, U.S. Army interactive unit, and much, much more. Cost: Admission to the three-day Ribs Burnoff is free of charge and onsite parking at the fairgrounds is free each day until 4pm, when a fee of $5 per vehicle is charged.
Lake Metropark’s Farmpark in Kirtland
Vintage Ohio is about celebrating Ohio wine makers. More than 20 wineries set up booths to pour 150 regional vintages–Pinot Gris, Chardonnays, Cabernet Francs, Rieslings, ice wines and even grape juices for the youngsters. We suggest you pick up your souvenir wine glass and conduct your own taste test. Enjoy red, white, blush, dry and sweet wines, while sampling high-brow cuisine like lobster bisque, grilled shrimp, strawberry crepes, ostrich burgers, steamed clams, stone crab claws, gourmet cheeses, St. Louis style ribs, gnocchi and dozens of other dishes. Loretta Paganini’s School of Cooking (recognized as one of the best in the Midwest) presents more than a dozen food and wine demonstrations joined by celebrity chefs. And once you’re done stuffing your face, relax and listen to live music on three stages featuring smooth jazz and classic oldies from the likes of Robert Ocasio’s Latin Project or Stan Miller & Kelly Connors or go explore a variety of activities–milk a cow, take a wagon ride, explore the Great Tomato Works or meet more than 50 breeds of farm animals. Cost: Advanced tickets are $20 for adult wine samplers and $10 for non-drinker/designated drivers; at the gate prices are $25.
North Ridgeville Corn Festival
Amish style? Roasted? Popped? Buttered? Raw? However you like it, the North Ridgeville Corn Festival can deliver your favorite cobs cooked to perfection. It’s a maize craze with columns of corn stands peddling tons of Ridgeville’s prime stalk–more tha 700 ears are cooked up each hour for three days in early August. Visitors can eat cob after cob (remember: salt, pepper, butter, repeat), then mill about the festival inspecting musical entertainment from artists like Put-in-Bay regular Pat Dailey and R&B crooners Touch. There is an arts and craft show, carnival rides, corn eating contest and an antique car show. Both Friday and Saturday night will nd with sizzling fireworks displays. Just beware of those creepy children of the corn–for real–there are actual people dressed in corn people outfits, stalking festivalgoers. Cost: Free admission and parking, but rides cost money.
Twins Days Festival
You will do a triple take when more than 2,000 sets of twins appear at the Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio. This is said to be the largest gathering of twins in the world (as listed in the Guinness Book of World Records), open to all multiples–identical, fraternal, twins, triplets, quads–and their families. The theme for this year is “Twins Days Rocks!” starting with the nationally-televised Double-Take Parade (Aug. 8, 9am). The fair, held at Glen Chamberlin Park (behind the Middle School), hosts Twins Contests, Twins Talent Shows, Twins group photos, craft booths, a beer garden, carnival rides and games. Entertainment throughout the weekend includes animal entertainer Jungle Terry, magicians, bands, and a fiery fireworks display Saturday at dusk. Cost: Admission $3.
113th Cuyahoga County Fair
As Ohio’s most populous county, the Cuyahoga County Fair has a rich history and a considerable size, growing ever bigger since 1893. Except for one year in the midst of the Depression (1932) and two years during World War II (1942 and 1943) the fair has been held each year at the fairgrounds in Berea. Today visitors from all over Ohio converge on 117 acres to enjoy 20 midway rides, 100 food stations and thousands of animals and exhibits. The fair features so much education and entertainment it’s hard to catch it all–down home music, square dancing, a haunted house and the “world’s largest demolition derby,” where 100 fearless drivers crash their junk cars into metal pretzels until only one survivor remains. Relax on the grandstands with a homemade beer while you watch harness racing or tribute bands to Bruce Springsteen (Thursday at 8pm) or the Beatles (Friday at 7:30pm), ending the night with a spectacular fireworks display and a handful of elephant ears.
Burning River Fest 2009
Help celebrate the “Year of the River” and spark a new level of environmental awareness with a frosty local brewski in your hand. Every August, people from all over the Great Lakes region raise a pint at the Burning River Fest to salute the watershed moment that raised a new level of eco-consciousness–the 1969 burning of the Cuyahoga River. In recognition of the river’s 40th “rebirth-day,” 2009’s party features live music, food from local and organic farms and eateries and, naturally, Great Lakes Brewing Company craft beer. Proceeds benefit the Burning River Foundation, a local non-profit organization that provides resources for the sustainable future of our waterways. The Burning River Fest is a small celebration (only from 4-11pm) at the historic Coast Guard Station on Whiskey Island, but it’s a smart and environmentally-conscience gala from one of Cleveland’s best small businesses. Cost: $10 on the day of the event and $5 if tickets are purchased in advance.
Feast of the Assumption
Little Italy’s Murray Hill neighborhood
In the Roman Catholic religion, August 15 is the Holy Day of Obligation known as the Feast of the Assumption, when the Blessed Mary assumes her place in heaven with Jesus Christ. Cleveland’s old school ethnic neighborhood Little Italy celebrates the holiday with a festival full of both religious and secular fun. There is a traditional religious processional through the ethnic neighborhood streets following a mass at the church, but then there is also plenty of music, dancing, artwork, rides and, of course, tasty Euro-American cuisine. The four-day celebration draws crowds of more than 100,000 annually who celebrate the holiday by playing casino games, watching fireworks, and visiting street vendors selling traditional Italian items and an array of foods. The event captures Little Italy’s rich history, such as the place where Chef Boyardee opened his first restaurant, Il Giardino d’Italia, in the 1940s, and Angelo Vitantonio received the first patented on a pasta machine in 1906.
Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival
Summer wouldn’t be the same without grilling up some fat, juicy bratwurst, or without cooking more than 27 tons of it at the Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival. For three days the city celebratew its favorite white weenie, cooking up tasty bratwurst with more than 100 stands dishing up a variety of sausage, each with its own special seasoning perfected by local butchers whose families emigrated from Germany (a Bucyrus-style bratwurst is served split on a rye bun with sauerkraut, mustard and chopped white onions). It’s more bratwurst than you can shake a stick at and, as far as we know, stick shaking is still the measurement of choice in beautiful Bucyrus. And when you’re not stuffing wieners in your mouth, hit the beer gardens or try your hand at rides, games, craft booths or three different bratwurst parades. And did we mention the Bratwurst Festival Queen contest? Well, it’s the closest thing to choosing Bucyrus royalty. Cost: Admission is free.
Pet Fest 2009
Black River Landing, Lorain
Animal enthusiasts everywhere will be parading their cats, dogs and favorite furry friends at the Lorain Port Authority for “Animal Attraction, Pet Fest 2009”–bringing pets and their families out for a day of food, fun, education, and a chance to meet with local animal welfare organizations. Food and pet vendors attract potential owners who can relax at pet cooling stations, visit adoption services, pet grooming booths and car shows, or just grab some food and drink, including WING IT! — a best wings contest with a $500 cash top prize. Do you look like your pet? Well that’s tough luck, but feel free to join the Look Alike contest at 3pm and win some prizes. Two classic rock bands–Tomorrow’s End and Ball and Chain (5-8pm)–jam out familiar tunes while Rebecca Wilde roams the grounds on the Q104 Prize Patrol. The fest even provides free spraying and neutering all day. Cost: $5 donation per family; pets are free.
Taste of Cleveland
Tower City Amphitheater
Sample local cuisine, culture and music at the 14th Annual Taste of Cleveland. Chefs step out of their Cleveland kitchens to serve sample-size portions of their scrumptious menu specialties, vying for awards like “Best of the Fest.” For four days, rich aromas from ethnic fare will waft over Tower City’s outdoor Amphitheater. Native smells and tastes are matched to lively cultural music (from hip hop to bag pipes) and big name performances (last year’s included Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Los Lonely Boys and Squeeze). Tasters can eye quality entertainment while gorging themselves on pierogies, frog legs, pizza, crepes, ribs, ice cream, booze and more. It’s just a great way to appraise local food hot spots like Saffron Patch, DeBonne Vineyards, Isabella’s Café, Mekong River and Great Lakes Brewing Co. (all past vendors). Cost: Admission is $7 for adults; kids under 12 are free. –Submitted by Keith Gribbins