Whaddaya wanna do this weekend?” “I dunno, whadda you wanna do?”
Ah, the clarion call of the ill-prepared. Summer stares you in the face with its myriad entertainment and edification options, and you blink in confusion. How many of your valuable weekend hours will you waste pondering where to spend them?
Fortunately, summer is perfect for concentrated doses of enchantment in contained areas. That’s right, it’s festival time again, when you can cram an entire week’s worth of fun into one whirlwind Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Here are our best bets for spending those precious moments between “Thank God it’s Friday” and “Oh hell it’s Monday.”
June 1-2: You don’t have to wait until January to celebrate budding filmmakers in Utah. The Utah Film & Video Center hosts the Utah Short Film & Video Festival over three weekends, providing a showcase for local would-be auteurs. Shuck off that third viewing of Clones and get a much-needed dose of avant-garde.
June 8-9: Fly your rainbow flag at Sunday’s Pride Day, whether you play for their team or just root root root for them. The annual parade starts the day, followed by entertainment and information at the City & County Building. Come celebrate the radical notion that equality isn’t about what you do with your genitalia on your own time.
June 15-16: It’s a good weekend to explore some cultural diversity—and for free, no less. Break out your tartan, toss the caber, listen to the pies and don’t forget the haggis as Murray Park again hosts the annual Scottish Festival. Over at South Towne Expo Center, the Asian Pacific Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary with food booths, martial arts demonstrations and an appearance by Asian-American boy group At Last—so bring your teen-squeal-deflecting earplugs.
June 22-23: Break out your art-appreciation glasses, ’cause it’s Utah Arts Festival time again. The Gallivan Center plays host to hundreds of artists showing off their finest work in paint, ceramics, metal and mixed-media combinations you’ve probably never even considered. When you’re ready to take a break from walking the artists’ marketplace, sit down to enjoy the music and spoken word performances, including Saturday night headliner Robert Cray.
June 29-30: More ethnic enlightenment and frivolity comes to the Gallivan Center during Saturday’s Slavic Festival. Folk dancing, singing and authentic crafts from Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Slovakia and more highlight this annual event. All that, plus all the stuffed cabbage you can eat!
July 4-7: Take advantage of that long holiday weekend for some classic theater at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. Cedar City’s annual celebration mixes the finest in Elizabethan drama with more contemporary gems, giving you a chance for some rather eclectic double-feature combos. How about a matinee of Harvey with an As You Like It chaser? Or maybe mixing The Man of La Mancha with Cymbeline is more your style. Just ignore the irony of celebrating an English playwright on Independence Day weekend.
July 13-14: A traditional Buddhist event celebrating and honoring the dead, the Obon Festival provides a showcase for Japanese cultural traditions like kimono-clad Bon Odori dancers and taiko drumming. Authentic food is also on the menu, naturally, and the whole experience won’t cost you one thin dime.
July 20-21: You don’t have to be an oh-my-heck descendent of an original hand-carter to get in that late July spirit. Leading up to the big day on the 24th, the Pioneer Festival at This Is the Place Park takes you back to those days of pioneer pluck and grit. And don’t ever forget, civilization wouldn’t even be here without them.
July 27-28: The hills are alive with truly American musical sounds this weekend. The Snowbird Jazz & Blues Festival offers two nights of delights—Saturday’s blues night headlined by Koko Taylor and Her Blues Machine, and Sunday’s jazz night featuring Sergio Mendes and Brasil 2002. See, “Utah jazz” isn’t just a wacky oxymoron for out-of-town sports-talk hosts to guffaw over.
Aug. 3-4: If you only know Park City’s Main Street when it’s clogged with snow, skiers and Sundancers, you’ve been missing something. The Park City Art Festival turns Main Street into a playground for over 200 artists, while the Food Pavilion lets Park City’s finest gourmets strut their stuff. All this, and great music, too. More than 100,000 visitors each year can’t be wrong.
Aug. 10-11: Don’t think these are some Johnny-come-latelys jumping on the post-O Brother, Where Art Thou? bandwagon. IAMA was bringing its Folk & Bluegrass Festival to Deer Valley’s Snow Park Lodge long before “old-timey music” was a gleam in the Coen brothers’ eyes. Scheduled performers include Sara Hickman, Ellis Paul, The Chapmans, Gift Horse and Phillips, Grier & Flinner. Rosin up the bow, y’all.
Aug. 17-18: What, more Utah jazz? Cruise up I-80 this weekend for the Park City Jazz Festival, which annually brings big-name talent to its multi-venue weekend. This year, Natalie Cole and Al Jarreau are among the headliners. Take that, you out-of-town sports-talk hosts.
Aug. 24-25: No, it’s not a place to celebrate the Boston NBA franchise’s return to glory. The Celtic Festival actually pronounces the word properly, and allows you to appreciate splendid authentic dancing without having to endure Michael Flatley. Plus crafts, food and other festival niceties.
Aug. 31-Sep. 1: Can you hear the yodeling from here? It’s time for Midway’s Swiss Days festivities, which annually include handbell ringers, clog-dancing and children’s storytelling. Visitors making lame jokes about cheese, versatile knives, numbered bank accounts or political neutrality will be escorted off the premises.
Sep. 7-8: My big fat Greek Festival takes its annual post-Labor Day place of honor, wrapping up the summer in a grand flourish of scrumptious food, exquisite performances and still more scrumptious food. Then go home and hibernate—you’ve got to build your strength for next summer.