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Festivals are Heating Up New York State this Summer

April 24, 2014 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

Those looking for a break from the ordinary this summer need look no further than New York State. From the quirky to the sublime, hundreds of events across the Empire State offer visitors the chance to become immersed in new cultures, learn new skills, and pursue your passions.

The festivals this year include the Taste of Country Music Festival, June 13 – 15 at Hunter Mountain in the Catskills, featuring well-known stars such as Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley and Thompson Square, and the Finger Lakes Plein Air Festival, June 4 – 8 in Canandaigua where visitors can watch professional artists at work and create their own sidewalk art.

What follows is just a small sampling of special events around the state this summer. For more great summer event vacation ideas, visit


Going for Baroque. The ornate 1891 Fredonia Opera House, in the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, provides an ideal setting for the spirited Baroque music featured in the Bach & Beyond Baroque Music FestivalJune 13 – 15. Plus, CMF’sCatskill High Peaks Festival, August 10 – 20 features chamber music concerts by young musicians. Weekend of Chamber MusicJuly 13 – 26, celebrates its 21st Annual Summer Festival Crossings! with a celebrated American composer in residence In the Finger Lakes, UHR 2 Article-Banners-250-x-250-pixelsthe Canandaigua Lake Music Festival, July 11 – 20 draws classical musicians from around the world.

Groovin’ in the Open Air.  Nothing says summer like an open-air concert. In the Catskills, Hunter Mountain hosts a series of music festival weekends. Among the favorites is Woodstock Mountain Jam Fest XJune 5 – 8, featuring national recording artists and local bands. Another Catskill favorite, Greyfox Bluegrass Festival at Walsh Farm in Oak Hill, July 17 – 20, presents bluegrass & acoustic music, dancing, workshops, family activities and camping. In the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, the Great Blue Heron Music FestivalJuly 4 – 6 in Sherman, brings national and regional acts performing roots, rock, zydeco, blues, old-time and bluegrass for a celebration of music and dance on 300 acres in the Amish countryside. In the Adirondacks, the Tug Hill Bluegrass Festival, June 12 – 14 at the Maple Ridge Center in Lowville offers three days of camping and music.

Rocking on the River: Some of the best outdoor concerts happen along New York’s scenic waterways. A long-time favorite is the Hudson Valley’s Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival, June 21 – 22 in Croton-on-Hudson, with music, dance, storytelling and an audience-participation Circle of Song as well as environmental displays and experiences.Downtown Troy, in the Capital-Saratoga Region, features free outdoor concerts every Wednesday night from June 18 – August 27. In the 1000 Islands-Seaway region, the 13th Annual Blues in the Bay, August 28 – September 1st in Alexandria Bay, features free open-air concerts along with performances at local hotels, restaurants and pubs throughout the weekend. Albany’s Alive at Five brings various genres from the local, regional, and national scene every weekend from June 5 – August 27.

And all that Jazz. In addition to the world famous Saratoga Jazz Festival, June 28 – 29 and the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, June 20 – 28, there are many more jazz festivals throughout the state. Jazz lovers have at least two timely reasons to visit the Greater Niagara region this summer. On July 26, the Queen City Jazz Festival at The Colored Musicians Club in Buffalo, which has hosted jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, will be celebrating the club’s 78th anniversary with an all-day affair featuring some of Buffalo’s best jazz musicians. On August 22 – 23, the Lewiston Jazz Festival in Lewiston showcases jazz performers from young rising stars to seasoned musicians performing tunes that span six decades of straight on-jazz, latin jazz and pop-infused favorites.


Across the Pond. Savor the music, food and fun of France or Germany in your backyard at one of the state’s many ethnic festivals. The French joie de vivre is embodied in dances, crafts, patisserie and a parade at the 46th Annual French Festival, July 12 – 13 at Cape Vincent in the 1000 Islands-Seaway region. Enjoy authentic German music, food and dancing at the Bavarian Summer Fest at Riedlbauer’s Resort at Round Top in the Catskills, June 21 – 22 and at the German Alps Festival, at Hunter Mountain in the Catskills, August 9 – 10.

Fiddling Around. In the Catskills, you can go Irish at the 20th Annual Catskills Irish Arts Week July 13 – 19 in Durham & East Durham, where you can learn to fiddle and dance, or at the International Celtic Festival at Hunter Mountain, August 16 – 17 with traditional cuisine and entertainment. In the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, the Jamestown Regional Celtic Festival and Gathering of the Clans on August 22 in Mayville presents an all Celtic festival with bagpipe bands, Celtic bands, dancers, vendors, Scottish athletic competition and children’s area, while the Scandinavian Folk Festival, July 18 – 20 at the Gerry Rodeo Grounds in Gerry, features a Viking Village with craft demonstrations and workshops, Scandinavian products and entertainment.

The First People. In the Finger Lakes, at the 23rd Annual Native American Dance & Music Festival, July 26 – 27 at the Ganondagan State Historic Site, Native American traditional dancers, musicians, storytellers and artists sharing their cultural heritage, crafts and arts with visitors of all ages. In the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, dancers come from across the country to compete in authentic and colorful Native American Dance and Drum Competitions at the annual Seneca Allegany Veterans Pow Wow, July 18 – 20 at Veteran’s Park in Salamanca. Native American art, craft and food vendors are also featured.


The Art of the Local. Local creativity ranging from crafts and cuisine to performing arts will be showcased in over 50 events at the Adirondack Arts & Heritage Festival, June 28 – July 7 in the Saranac Lake area, as well as at the Folk School Festival on July 12 at the Adirondack Folk School in Lake Luzerne. The 34th Annual Crafts Show, July 11 – 13 and August 8 – 10 at the Chautauqua Institution, is a juried show featuring the work of award winning artists from across the United States, the Allentown Art FestivalJune 14 – 15 is expected to draw over 400 juried exhibitors.

Art Outdoors. Saranac Lake sets the scene for the Adirondack Plein Air Festival on August 21 – 24, when painters from all over the country will be at work around Saranac Lake painting the village and surrounding scenic areas. And at the Finger Lakes Plein Air Festival, June 4 – 8 in Canandaigua, in addition to watching professional artists at work, visitors of all ages can join in the “Community Paint Out” event. Canandaigua will also host Arts in the GardensAugust 16 – 17 at the Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park, a two day juried fine art and craft show and sale.

Dark Shadows. Exhibiting modern and contemporary pieces, The Hyde Collection offers a world-class group of works that span almost six thousand years of art history from antiquity to the present. This summer the museum will display exhibitions of contemporary artist Larry Kagan and and American realist Edward Hopper. Both exhibits use shadows as a concept for emphasis, and run from June 14 – September 14.

Film Festivals. The Long Island International Film Expo, July 9 – 17, showcases short and feature-length independent films from all over the globe. In the Capital-Saratoga Region, the Ballston Spa International Film Festival, August 1 – 2, features short films, world premieres and works by young filmmakers.


Biking Through the Countryside. When the snow melts, many steep ski slopes issue their challenge to competitive cyclists. For example, Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks is the site of the Wilmington-Whiteface Mountain Bike Fest, June 20 – 22, with both uphill and downhill bike races along with family-friendly activities, and the Wilmington/Whiteface 100K, June 22, a Leadville Qualifying Series mountain bike race. Cyclists who can pedal at least 35 to 45 miles a day can join Parks & Trails New York on the six-day, 200-mile Cycling the Hudson Valley 2014 tour starting on July 29 and traveling from Albany to New York City. Marked routes, daily maps and cue sheets, support vehicles for transporting baggage and equipment, snacks and more will be available.


Who has the Best Ribs? Farmers’ markets from Long Island to the 1000 Islands brim with fresh seasonal produce. Wineries and breweries often welcome visitors with live music and entertainment throughout the summer. Plus, there are cookouts and culinary competitions and celebrations for everything from barbecue to sauerkraut to strawberries to Buffalo wings. There’s even an event that brings professional barbecue teams from across North America–the  Troy Pig Out, July19 – 20 in downtown Troy, in the Capital Saratoga region, where events includes People’s Choice competitions and plenty of opportunities for sampling. Rochester has its Big Rib Festival from July 10 – 13, where five Rib Masters from across the USA will present visitors with their secret recipes and unique preparation styles.

Living History. Reenactments are a fun way to experience history. This summer, you can participate in a a Civil War Encampment at the Knickerbocker Summer Festival, July 19 – 20 at the Knickerbocker Mansion in Schaghticoke, in the Capital-Saratoga region. The 1000 Island-Seaway region has two fun re-enactments as well. The Grand War of 1812 Bicentennial Reenactment, August 1 – 3 in Sackets Harbor, features living history traditions including camp life, cooking, music and military maneuvers, and Bill Johnston’s Pirate Days  August 8 – 17, in Alexandria Bay, offers ten days of tall ships, music, food and swashbuckling fun for the whole family with pirate invasions taking place on both weekends.

On Long Island, Old Bethpage Village Restoration, a 19th century living history village, celebrates Old Fashioned Independence Day on July 4 with traditional fiddle music, military drills, parades and ceremonies and a reading of the Declaration of Independence. Albany County will celebrate with a special Independence Day Exhibit in the New York State Capitol highlighting the state’s role in the American Revolution. The Brickhouse Museum will also be open to the public (nominal fee) with exhibits of period farmhouse decor and free demonstrations at the blacksmith shop and sawmill. And during Path Through History Weekends, June 7 – 8 and 14 – 15, in the Capital-Saratoga region, the Crailo State Historic Site in Rensselaer offers an Open House with costumed interpreters preparing Dutch Colonial treats and home remedies for all that ails you. For more history-themed events at state parks and historic sites, visit

Bonding with Birds and Butterflies. June is height of the northbound songbird migration and the Roger Tory Peterson Birding Festival, June 6 – 7 in Jamestown, in the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, invites visitors to follow in the footsteps of naturalist Roger Tory Peterson to see the diversity of colorful migratory birds that frequent the region. In the Adirondacks region, birders can register for hikes, canoe trips, safaris and seminars at the 10th Annual Boreal Birding Festival, June 13 – 15 at Lake Pleasant in the town of Adirondacks. The Chautauqua-Allegheny region’s Monarch Butterfly Festival, August 31 at the Audubon Nature Center in Jamestown, offers the chance to see Monarchs in all stages of their life cycle and see how adult butterflies are tagged so that scientists can trace their migration.

And more. From wild nature to wacky creativity, New York State knows how to have fun.  The Lake Ontario Pro-Am Tournament Series starting with Niagara’s 30th Annual Tournament, May 24 – 25, starts out of Wilson and Olcott and Lake Ontario Counties Trout & Salmon Derby is from June 14 – July 27. Consider the 6th Annual Tannersville Crazy Race & Festival, on July 26 in Tannersville in the Catskills, where contestants build a racer from beds, flower pots, garbage cans or anything they can imagine and race down Main Street. Or experience the Gerry Rodeo, July 30 – August 2, one of the oldest rodeos east of the Mississippi. Attend Lucy Comedy Fest 2014, August 6 – 10 at the Lucille Ball – Desi Arnaz Center in the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, to catch well-known and rising comedians from around the country. Be sure to for more event listings and region by region information.

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