Pity the Frank Costanza family.
The fictitious family from Seinfeld, including the infamous George Costanza, had to create their own family festival – dubbed Festivus – to have something to celebrate.
Those who live in or visit the Maumee Bay region have no such problem, especially in the summer months. There are a variety of ethnic, music, food, and just plain ol’ family fun festivals for people to choose from through Labor Day and beyond.
In fact, those who enjoy county fairs or community fairs like the Pemberville Free Fair will “fair” quite well, thank you.
About the only problem fair- and festival-goers might have is deciding which one to choose from.
International Park in East Toledo is the home of a nationally known festival that recognizes a late jazz great who was born right here in the Glass City.
The Art Tatum Jazz Heritage Festival runs June 17 and 18 at the park, which itself runs along the Maumee River from Main Street across from the Toledo Sports Arena to beyond the Anthony Wayne (High-Level) Bridge. The celebration, sponsored by the Toledo Jazz Society, was established years ago to honor Art Tatum, a Toledo pianist known worldwide among true jazz aficionados and people who just like good tunes.
Headlining this year’s show are jazz guitarist Peter White on Saturday and Grammy Award-winning artist Al Jarreau, who will headline on Sunday. There will also be local and regional acts performing a variety of jazz.
For parents who want to introduce their youngsters to jazz, there will be a special Kids Jazz area for jazz lovers ages 2 – 12, open from 2 to 6 p.m. Overall hours for the festival are 1:30 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 to 10 p.m. General admission tickets are $20 each day or $35 for a weekend pass. Students are $10 per day. Food, beverages, merchandise will also be available.
Music is also the focus of another popular festival, the Toledo Rock, Rhythm and Blues Festival on June 29 at Promenade Park in downtown Toledo. Some of the nation’s best blues artists come to the Glass City to join area and regional acts for a day of fun from 2 to 10 p.m.
If your taste in the arts is more visual than sound, you might want to consider the 41st annual Crosby Festival of the Arts being held June 24 and 25 at the Toledo Botanical Garden, 5403 Elmer Dr., Toledo.
The event features a juried art show, fine art displays, and competition that includes intricate works in glass, stone and other forms. There will be a children’s activities area, food, and more. Hours are Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Achieving a happy medium between sight and sound is what the Black Swamp Arts Festival from Sept. 8-10 in downtown Bowling Green is all about. Main Street in the Wood County city is closed for the more than 100 juried arts displays and the children’s activities area. There is also musical entertainment at the stages in parking lots on the east side of Main Street as well as food vendors and crafters. Not to mention, but we will for the shoppers out there, the many interesting shops that are open year-round along the street. Hours are 5 p.m. to midnight Friday, 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The Maumee Bay area’s most popular festivals are often the ethnic ones because they give people a chance to learn more about the song and dance of other cultures. And then there’s the food, too.
One ethnic festival held the same weekend as the Black Swamp Arts Festival is the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church’s Greek-American Festival Sept. 8-10 on the church grounds off Summit Street near the corner of Cherry Street. You can listen to music, dance, and eat like you’re at My Big Fat Greek Wedding, even if you aren’t Greek. Hint: try the baklava – it’s out of this world. Festival hours are 4 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.
The largest ethnic festival in northwest Ohio is the German-American Festival, scheduled this year for Aug. 25-27 at Oak Shade Grove in Oregon. Besides traditional and modern German music, there will be bratwurst and lots of other German foods, baked goods, and beverages for all ages. Hint: beer is a popular German drink.
In addition, the festival offers continuous entertainment, a chance to see men throw giant rocks, soccer games, children’s rides, and as an added enticement – free parking and a shady place to enjoy the festival.
Hours for the 2006 German-American Festival are 5 p.m. to midnight Friday; noon to midnight Saturday, and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.
While they may not be the largest ethnic festival in Toledo, the folks on Lagrange Street who put on the annual Polish Festival can certainly hold their own. Polka bands keep the toes a tappin’ while you’re enjoying kielbasa, pierogies, and such Polish pastries as paczki at the annual event, planned this year for July 7-9. Hours are Friday from 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday from noon to 10 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m.
Across the Maumee River on the east side, the 32nd Annual Birmingham Ethnic Festival on Aug. 20 offers Hungarian foods, dance, arts and crafts, cultural displays and music from noon to 9 p.m. along a closed Consaul Street between Front and Milford streets. While you’re in the neighborhood, stop by Tony Packo’s Original Café at the corner of Front and Consaul to check out the hot dog “buns” signed by celebrities from around the world and enjoy one of the café’s special hot dogs made famous by Toledoan Jamie Farr, who played the crazy Corporal Klinger on the TV series M*A*S*H.
To spice things up a bit, there’s the South of the Border Festival from Aug. 11-13 in Perrysburg Township. The celebration is just east of State Rt. 25 near I-475 in Perrysburg Township, across from the Levis Commons Town Center complex. Mexican and other Latino foods, dance, entertainment and exhibit are on tap. Hours are Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to midnight and Sunday 1 to 7 p.m.
Families or non-farm parents who want to expose their children to what life is like on the many farms that make up the backbone of northwest Ohio should consider the region’s many county fairs. They are a chance to get an up close and personal look at the cows, chickens, and other farm animals raised by 4-H and FFA students. There are also competitions for best baked goods, flowers, quilt-making and other hands-on home life.
County fairs also offer rides, food, games, vendors and plenty of great entertainment with headliner acts, tractor pulls, demolition derbies and more.
Here are the dates for the area’s county fairs this year:
Ottawa County Fair July 17-23 at the fairgrounds three miles east of Oak Harbor at 7870 State Rt. 63. Visit www.ottawacountyfair.org.
Lucas County Fair July 25-30 at the Lucas County Fairgrounds in Maumee. For more info, call 419-893-2127.
Wood County Fair Aug. 1-7 at the Wood County Fairgrounds, Bowling Green. Visit www.woodcountyfair.org.
Pemberville Free Fair Aug. 16-19 in downtown Pemberville. The annual grand parade will be held Aug. 19 at 1 p.m., and will feature marching bands, floats, clowns, antique vehicles and more. Call 419-287-4305.
Sandusky County Fair Aug. 22-27 at the Sandusky County Fairgrounds in Fremont. For information, visit www.sanduskycountyfair.com.
Those with more eclectic tastes and who know a bargain when they see one may want to browse the offerings at the flea markets held annually at the Portage River Festival in Elmore and at the Stony Ridge Festival off and along U.S. 20/23 (Fremont Pike) just west of I-420/I-280.
The Portage River celebration June 25 will feature a concert by the Ohio Air National Guard 555th Air Force Band as well as a craft show, antique cars, model railroad displays, demonstrations on making cane chairs, food, music, and other activities.
Stony Ridge residents join in the fun at the festival July 28-30 in their community park, located south of U.S. 20/23, by offering flea markets of their own all along the main highway. Traffic often slows to a crawl due to motorists gawking at the yard sales or trying to turn off the road to get to the community park, where there will be food, karaoke, music, and carnival rides. Hours are Friday 4 p.m. to dark; Saturday 9 a.m. to dark; and Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
If all of this talk about festivals is starting to bug you, and you have a like-minded interest in, well, insects, you may not want to miss BUGFEST! on July 15 at the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, 13229 West State Route 2 near Oak Harbor.
A variety of hands-on stations will be set up to learn about the amazing world of insects. Hours are 12 - 4 p.m. Bring the whole family and wear old shoes so you can participate in some of the exploratory activities.
Or just so you don’t get mud on your feet. After all, it IS a marsh…