Festival time in the Great Lakes states means decision time for visitors – because there are so many to choose from.
Take Illinois. The Lollapalooza festival in August began in 1991 as a farewell show for alternative rockers Jane’s Addiction but now covers 115 acres and features more than 130 artists.
Lollapalooza is only one of several music festivals in the Windy City. It also stages the three-day Chicago Blues Festival in June, which attracts more than half-a-million people every year, as well as the Chicago Jazz Festival at the end of August, described as ‘the most extensive free jazz festival in the world’.
The sheer diversity of the food available in the city is highlighted during the five-day Taste of Chicago in July, which is claimed to be ‘the world’s largest food festival’.
In Michigan, the motor city of Detroit hosts, as you’d expect, the North American International Auto Show during two weeks in January. And, like Chicago, the city offers free jazz at the Detroit International Jazz Festival, which occupies several city blocks in downtown Detroit during the Labor Day Weekend at the end of August.
The same weekend sees the Michigan State Fair – one of the oldest state fairs in the US – at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, north-east of Detroit, complete with quilting demonstrations, sheep shearing and antique tractors.
Detroit Lakes in Minnesota is the location for one of the largest outdoor country music festivals in the US. In August, WE Fest attracts many of the top names in country music to Soo Pass Ranch on the shores of Lake Sallie.
Each year in July Minnesota hosts the Blueberry Art Festival, in Ely. This three-day event in Whiteside Park in beautiful features 300 exhibitors of original art, photography, handcraft items, clothing, ethnic foods, plus a variety of musical entertainment. And to top it off, blueberry pancake breakfasts are served both Saturday and Sunday mornings at the event.
The Riverfront in Columbus, Ohio, is transformed into a stunning outdoor art gallery for the Columbus Arts Festival in June, when more than 280 top US artists show their work. The festival also features gourmet fare from some of the city’s top restaurants, live music and hands-on art activities.
Fancy a glimpse of the Wild West? Then head to the Old West Festival, which is staged every September at a permanent site 15 minutes east of Cincinnati. The site is transformed into an authentic Dodge City Wild West town dating back to 1878, complete with saloon shows, period music, old-fashioned melodramas and gunfight re-enactments. Alternatively, make for Loudonville, also in Ohio, for the Great Mohican Pow-Wow in July and September to learn about native culture and enjoy native food, music, storytelling and dance-and-drum competitions.
Claimed to be the ‘world’s largest and most-entertaining annual aviation event’, the EAAirVenture celebration at Oshkosh Regional Airport, Wisconsin, at the end of July attracts more than 10,000 planes from around the globe. The event features forums and workshops and spectacular acrobatic flying exhibitions.
The woods and meadows outside Spring Green, Wisconsin, are the scene of a series of outdoor performances by the acclaimed American Players Theatre from June until October. Named the Best Company of the Year by the Wall Street Journal in 2011, APT produces eight plays in rotating repertory at the 1,148-seat outdoor amphitheatre and 200-seat indoor theatre.
In Indianapolis, the Indy 500, the classic 500-mile American Championship Car race, is held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the Labor Day weekend. The track also stages the annual NASCAR’S Brickyard 400 and Indianapolis Red Bull Moto GP.