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The World of American Festivals

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They’re quirky, educational, a feast for the senses and a chance to escape your humdrum vacation travel. When you’re planning your next destination vacation, check these festivals out. All offer a chance to explore the riches of your surroundings, from coast to coast.

Are wine, craft beer and food at the top of the list? Some favorites are Central Valley Brewfest in May 2020 at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds, an experience in taste, art and music with over 150 brews to sample. Whether you’re a fan of wheat beers or love imperial IPAs with IBUs in the triple digits, the KC Beer Fest in Kansas City, Missouri, on September 13, 2020, cures what “ales” you. The one-day event features over 200 beers from regional craft breweries, food trucks and live musical performances.

The American Royal World Series of Barbecue in Kansas City, Missouri, September 17 through 20, 2020, is one of the country’s biggest barbecue celebrations and the largest barbecue competition in the world. The four-day extravaganza features over 500 chefs, pitmasters and amateur teams competing in categories from best sauce to best brisket, and there’s live entertainment and a spectacular fireworks display. On October 2, 2020, the Saratoga Wine and Food Festival in Saratoga, New York, at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, will celebrate the bounty of the region from the Hudson Valley to the Adirondacks with gourmet tastings, fine wines and local distillery and brewery tastings, a sculpture garden curated by The Hyde Collection, and musical performances curated by Caffè Lena.

Spend a vacation week in Northern California soaking up music, wine and culture. Celebrate the grape harvest with four days of name entertainment, wine tasting, grape murals, food and a carnival at the Lodi Grape Festival and Harvest Fair, September 14 through 17, 2020. If your taste runs to jazz, spend a day at the Monterey Jazz Festival, September 15 through 17, the oldest and greatest jazz festival in the country, marking its 49th year with a lineup that includes Chris Botti, Bonnie Raitt, Oscar Peterson and Dave Brubeck. While you’re there, inquire about the 2021 Lodi Wine and Chocolate Weekend.

While Kansas City is known for jazz, a small town just south, La Cygne, hosts the Tumbleweed country music festival set for May 28 through 30, 2020. Although this year’s lineup isn’t set, last year’s included such favorites as Alabama and Marshall Tucker Band. But wait! Columbia, Missouri’s 14th annual Roots N Blues Festival, October 2 through 4, 2020, is three days of more than 30 national, regional and local musicians on two stages, representing all genres of American roots music in a family-friendly space to enjoy live music, food and interactive art installations.

History comes alive in Murphys, California, and one of its most popular events is the Gold Rush Street Fair and Grape Stomp, the first weekend of October; this year you can channel your inner Lucy and Ethel on October 7. The day’s events include energetic stomp competitions, live and silent auctions, team costume contest and, of course, wine tasting. Murphys’ rich and colorful past began in 1848 when John and Daniel Murphy established a trading post and gold mining operation in the area that is now their namesake. They were a part of the first immigrant party to successfully bring wagons over the Sierra in 1844, paving the way for westward migration. Then the cry of “GOLD” arose, bringing fortune seekers and a fascinating cast of characters to the area.

Revolutionary War history buffs will find a surfeit of knowledge at the Memorial Day weekend commemoration of the service of the armed forces of the United States beginning Saturday, May 23, 2020. Step back in time to meet the soldiers of the American Revolution and their Continental Army, learn about their weapons, rations, uniforms and their hopes for liberation from British oppression. While in the area, you will experience breathtaking views from the summit of Mount Defiance and can take a sightseeing boat tour on Lake Champlain.

As a child, were you terrified by Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow?” In October 2020, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown and Croton-on-Hudson, New York, come alive with more than beautiful foliage. For the month of October, the 300-year-old Philipsburg Manor becomes a landscape ruled by vampires, witches, ghouls and ghosts, all serving the Headless Horseman; visitors traverse a haunted trail, stumbling upon scary scenes of a town driven mad by the Headless Horseman. From September through November, you can wander through the Great Pumpkin Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, viewing a spectacular display of more than 7,000 illuminated jack-o’-lanterns, all designed and carved on site by more than 1,000 pumpkin artisans and volunteers! It’s complete with synchronized lighting and an original soundtrack; all proceeds support the programs of Historic Hudson Valley, a non-profit education organization. ■

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