Great Summer Festivals in All 50 States (and D.C.)
Blueberries are annual rite of summer, and Ketchikan pulls out all the stops with its annual Blueberry Arts Festival. Now in its 41st year, the festival's activities include a blueberry pie eating contest, a slug race (for kids), a totem pole raising celebration, a wearable art show, live entertainment, and much more. Join in the fun Aug. 5-7.
For more than two decades, the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven has brought together world-class music, dance, theater, spoken word, and circus performances. The festival offers both free and ticketed events (at least 85 percent are offered at no cost) over a two-week span in June in New Haven's historic downtown.
Get high at the annual Festival of Ballooning in Readington, where thrill-seekers gather for North America's largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival. Activities include concerts, fireworks, a 5K run, yoga, and of course hot air balloon rides. General admission to the July 29-31 event is $3.50 (though balloon rides add a significant cost: $225-$250).
The 7th Inning Stretch Festival has a baseball theme -- it’s hosted by the American Legion World Series -- but if there’s a game going on it’s hard to find among all the other events scheduled for Aug. 6 in Shelby. The free day starts with the Little Miss American Legion Beauty Pageant and ends with an Uncle Kracker concert, with a cornhole tournament, drumline showcase, obstacle course, and plenty of stuff for children throughout.
German Days in Bismarck (named after Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck in 1873 to attract German settlers to the area -- and it worked) is a free, three-day celebration of all things German, including music, food, and, of course, beer. Visitors dress up and enjoy a stein-hoisting contest, polka, clogging, oom-pah music and activities, including authentic European storytelling and fairy tales for kids. Dates this year are July 14-16.
Celebrating arguably the best thing about summer, the Rush Springs Watermelon Festival serves more than 50,000 pounds of the stuff to more than 20,000 visitors and surrounds it with watermelon-themed activities, an arts and crafts fair, classic car show, carnival rides, and live music. Held annually since 1948 (this year it’s Aug. 11-13), this has become a very popular event. Any why not? It includes a free watermelon feed.
Held each year over Fourth of July, the Big Butler Fair is the largest fair in western Pennsylvania, drawing crowds from four states. Events include stunt driving, tractor and truck pulls, a demolition derby, square dancing, concerts, harness racing, carnival rides, fireworks (on the Fourth), and much more. General admission tickets for the July 1-9 event are $8; add an all-day ride band for $15-$20.
Every year on Blessing of the Fleet Weekend in Narragansett, decorated watercraft line up to be blessed by local clergy and parade in front of judges and thousands of spectators. The free festivities July 29-30 include a Seafood Festival with live music and activities for kids.
Norfolk goes in a different direction for its free Mid Summer Fantasy Festival: back in time. This July 29-31 evening event promises to immerse visitors in exuberant large-scale art installations based on Shakespeare’s plays -- but in the spirit of the hip Burning Man desert art and music festival. In addition to seemingly endless theatrical and musical experiences, properly bedecked visitors (and others) can expect to find children’s activities, specialty foods, and craft brews, wines, and ciders.
The West Virginia Blackberry Festival offers a variety of family-friendly activities, including a pet parade, a talent show and baking contest, live music, fireworks, a 5K run, and more. The free event, which got its start 20 years ago as a homecoming celebration, is held in the tiny town of Nutter Fort and runs Aug. 4-6.
Return to the days of the "Old West" during Cheyenne Frontier Days, a 10-day celebration featuring the world's largest outdoor rodeo that draws talent from across the country, competing on horseback for $1 million in prizes. Other features include an old frontier town, saloon, a chuck-wagon cook-off, pancake breakfast, and much more, all set against a dramatic southern Wyoming landscape.