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Summer Fun Guide: Outdoor Festivals


Indiana summer festivals celebrate everything from covered bridges to strawberries to steam engines to mulberries to muzzle loading rifles. It's hard to say which Hoosiers love more: food or history. You can celebrate both, but then some purists will have you eating hardtack and salt pork. Here in the state capital of Indianapolis, we tend to focus on ethnicity, food and music for our summer festivals. Whatever your flavor, you're sure to find something to enjoy!

June 6-7: Indiana Festival, Conner Prairie

Immerse yourself in the music, dance, traditional arts and food of Indiana's diverse cultures. Live music performances, unique dance routines and a mix of ethnic and festival foods. (Free with general admission).

June 6-7: Woodruff Place Flea Market

A community flea market in one of the coolest communities we know. Check out antiques, arts, collectibles, crafts, clothes and furniture Woodruff Place residents have decided to part with. Entertainment and food vendors, as well. (Free.)

June 6: 10th Anniversary Vintage Indiana, Military Park

Enjoy samples of over 100 wines from 20 of Indiana's wineries. The day's lineup also includes: live music featuring Jennie DeVoe; a variety of foods from many of Indianapolis' top restaurants; an interactive KidZone; wine and food experience pavilion with live cooking and wine demonstrations. (Adults $25; designated driver $12; youth $5; 5 and under are free.)

June 12-13: Italian Street Festival, Holy Rosary Catholic Church

Italian meats, pastas, salads and desserts; live music and dancing; and games for everyone (Saturday and Sunday). On the Saturday of the festival, there is an early afternoon mass at Holy Rosary Catholic Church. Later in the day a colorful, Italian religious procession takes place, which is followed by a second mass.

June 13: Talbot Street Art Fair, Talbot Street

Many local vendors, but many on the art fair circuit from elsewhere. Prices range, as does medium, but everyone is sure to find something they like. The fair is held in the Talbot Street neighborhood, between 16th and 19th streets (north/south) and between Pennsylvania and Delaware streets (east/west).

June 13: Indy Pride, Military Park

The Saturday parade and festival at the end of the route are the culmination of more than a week of diverse events aimed at celebrating, embracing and entertaining the GLBT community in Indianapolis. Check out the full schedule for all the fun at a variety of venues around town.

June 13: Independent Music + Art Festival, Harrison Center for the Arts

A forum for independent artists who don't want to set up at the big street fairs, and independent bands who are willing to devote an afternoon to a vital community event. Last year's bill featured rockabilly queen Mandy Marie and her Cool Hand Lukes, eccentric and electric emcee Lord of the Yum-Yum and Bloomington indie-pop band Impossible Shapes, among many others.

June 27: 15th Annual N.I.T.E. Ride, Major Taylor Velodrome

Full day of bicycling events and entertainment at the Velodrome, including the opportunity to ride the track yourself, watch races among some of the top cyclists in the city, as well as enjoy food and entertainment. The day culminates with an 11 p.m. mass bike ride through Indianapolis. Helmets and headlights required. (Free.)

July 9-19: Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration, Indiana Convention Center

Summer Celebration is now the largest African-American event in the nation, with over 300,000 people in attendance. The myriad of programs and events stretches over an 11-day period and includes business workshops, health and wellness, employment opportunities, spiritual enrichment, exhibits, youth activities and entertainment. This year features performances by Eric Benet and Sugarhill Gang.

July 11: Viva Puerto Rico! Festival, Garfield Arts Center

A festival celebrating Puerto Rican culture that promises to take visitors to the Caribbean - taste some of the main dishes, make arts and crafts and experience live performances. (Free.)

July 15-25: Indianapolis International Film Festival, Indianapolis Museum of Art

Ten-day film festival hosted at the IMA that is quickly becoming a favorite of filmmakers and filmgoers, alike. While this year's lineup won't be announced until July 1, there are always future Academy Award winners in the bunch, as well as scores of awards from other festivals.

July 17-19: 14th Annual Middle Eastern Festival, St. George Orthodox Church

All things Middle Eastern are the celebratory factors here, particularly the things that make a party great: food, music and dancing. That includes lamb shanks, kibbee, falafel, kafta, gyros, grape leaves, spinach pies and falafal! Festival begins Friday evening and continues throughout the weekend. ($5, under 12 free.)

July 23-Aug. 1: Marion County Fair, Marion County Fairgrounds

One of Indiana's largest county fairs. Free concerts and other entertainment daily on the Park Stage; demo derby, heavy weight horse pulls, truck pulls, IMPD K-9 demo, motorcycle races and more at the Grandstand; Midway and fair food including the Original Marion County Fair Elephant Ear; 4-H displays and demos. ($5; 5 and under free.)

Aug. 7-23: Indiana State Fair, Indiana State Fairgrounds

Seriously? You need a description of the Indiana State Fair at this point? Um, OK. It's kind of like saying you need a description of summer, but here goes. How about the Midway rides and cotton candy? Or the World's Largest Boar in the swine barn? Or the rooster crowing contest? Or the elephant ears, concerts at the Grandstand, horse shows and prize winning potatoes? It's all there, and most likely you can purchase it deep-fried. ($8; 5 and under free.)

Aug. 8: Taste of Downtown, Easley Winery

Free street festival featuring live music on two stages, food from several restaurants, wine, winery tours, wine sales and a lot of dancing. Runs from 4-10 p.m. (Free admission with canned food item for Gleaners.)

Aug. 21-30: Fifth Annual IndyFringe Theatre Festival, Mass Ave Cultural District

Fifty-three performers, 270 shows, six stages and 10 days of outrageous outbursts of off-beat theatrical fun. Plus fine arts, film festival, street performers and lots more. Located at six venues in the Mass Ave Cultural District. (Buy a $3 festival badge onsite good for all 10 days, then pay $10 cash per person per show at the door, 30 minutes before any show; $5 under age 12.)

Aug. 29: Feast of Lanterns, Spades Park

A true neighborhood festival that also provides a breathtaking backdrop -- hundreds of paper lanterns illuminating the sky above the park. Musical entertainment is always provided by some of the best local acts around, and the food is quite tasty as well. Don't miss the lighting of the lanterns and parade at dusk! (Free.)

Sept. 4-6: 14th Annual Rib America Festival, Military Park

Be forewarned: There's no Hootie and the Blowfish this year. Sadly. There are, however, award-winning barbecue vendors, music performances by the likes of Billy Squier, Puddle of Mudd, Night Ranger, Candlebox, Loverboy, Cowboy Mouth, Black Stone Cherry, The Elms, Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, Healing Sixes, Stereo Deluxe and more scheduled over the weekend. (Check for early-bird free admission times, otherwise it's $5 for those 13 and older.)

Sept. 11-12: 35th Annual Greek Festival, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church

Not to be confused with the Authentic Geek Fest, which is something entirely different thanks to the letter "R." Greek Fest is a highlight of the summer ethnic celebrations. Try authentic Greek cuisine; entertainment by The IKARI Band, the Holy Trinity Hellenic Dance Troupes, Kalamatianos, Tsamikos and OPA!

Sept. 12: 19th Annual French Market, St. Joan of Arc Church

A great parish event that provides a wide selection of all the best in French gastronomic delights, as well as a good selection of market products, great music and lots of opportunities to enjoy the last dog days of summer with good wine, cheese and friends all while supporting the church. (Free.)

Sept. 12: Penrod Art Fair, Indianapolis Museum of Art

They call it the nicest day in Indiana, and we couldn't agree more. This year, a record 300-plus artists, six stages of entertainment, more than 50 arts-related non-profit organizations, an extensive children's area and plenty of food and beverage are offered for your enjoyment. (Admission price not yet available.)

Sept. 18-20: 14th Annual Irish Fest, Military Park

The last in the ethnic/cultural summer celebrations, this one focuses on all things Irish, particularly traditional Irish music played with fiddles, harps, bodhrán, accordions, flutes, whistles and bagpipes, as well as Celtic music with a little more edge. There's also step dancers galore and beer. Lots of beer. Guiness. (Admission price not yet available.)

Sept. 19: Fiesta Indianapolis, American Legion Mall

Where the Americas Come Together: The annual outdoor Fiesta celebration takes place during National Hispanic Heritage Month. Since 1980, Fiesta has been the premier Latino cultural celebration in Indiana. Fiesta celebrates, educates and shares the Latino culture through diverse mediums including art, music, dance, food and cultural activities.

Sept. 21-28: 11th Annual Indy Jazz Fest, Military Park

It hasn't been an easy 11 years for the Jazz Fest, and this year they've once again undergone a bit of a transformation. The biggest change is pushing the event back to the end of September, No real details yet, but save the dates and check NUVO and their Web site for details as they emerge.

SIDEBAR: Other Indiana Festivals

May 23-24: 33nd Annual Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous, Vincennes, Ind.

The Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous is a Revolutionary Era event, depicting 1700-1815 with the Northwest Territorial Association. There are soldiers reenacting Revolutionary battles and life as it was during this era and merchants, traders, demonstrators, foods, entertainment, children's games, etc., which were displayed, sold and used during that time period. (Free.)

June 12-14: Cole Porter Festival, Peru, Ind.

If you enjoy Cole Porter music, you will have a real treat this weekend. The events are sponsored by the Miami County Historical Society, Inc., the Cole Porter Birthplace Restoration Group and Ole Olsen Memorial Theatre and begin with a black tie gala on Friday evening. Events continue on Saturday with music in the museum, tours of the restored birthplace, the museum, the Old Fashioned Garden and Cole's grave. In the evening there is a dinner and musical revue. Sunday concludes with a classic car show. (Admission varies by event.)

June 23-26: Swiss Days Festival, Berne, Ind.

Discover Switzerland in Indiana! Polka dancing, children's activities, factory tours, quilt show, stein toss, horse pulling contest, craft vendors, sidewalk sales, parade, musical entertainment on the downtown stage and high school auditorium, sports competitions and Swiss foods. New in 2008: champion yo-yo performer and showcase open to all performing with locally made wooden, Amish yo-yos. (Free.)

July 11-18: Circus City Festival, Peru, Ind.

Two hundred performers between the ages of 7 and 21 perform each July in the "Greatest Amateur Show on Earth." The only remaining circus parade in the United States during the last day of the festival each year.


July 19-20: Oldenburg Freudenfest, Oldenburg, Ind.

German festival featuring German music, dancers, food, crafts, games, 10K hike, beer garden, old farm machinery and great family fun! (Free.)

Aug. 27-30: Swiss Wine Festival, Vevay, Ind.

Vevay, Indiana is home to the annual Swiss Wine Festival, which takes place in the Riverfront Park on the banks of the beautiful Ohio River. This year's festival will feature many varieties of great Indiana wines, Riverboat cruises along with Hot Wax '50s and '60s Show Band and great children's entertainment.


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