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Summer Entertainment Guide

25 outdoor events around New England from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend

To fill your summer weekends with fun, check out these events around the region.

Illustration of a family looking off at all the outdoor summer activities they can do around New England.
andy smith for the boston globe

Expect a big welcome at outdoor events this summer. It’s hard to tell who’s more excited — the organizers, the artists and vendors, or the rest of us who want to go somewhere and do something. As vaccination numbers are rising and gathering restrictions are easing, organizers are moving ahead with cautious optimism. They’re eager to welcome visitors, but the situation remains fluid. Before heading out, check to make sure an event has not been canceled and to find out about health protocols. And because crowd size may be limited, it’s best to buy tickets or make reservations far in advance.

1. TRANS AM MEMORIAL DAY CLASSIC

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When: May 28-31

Ah, the great American muscle car! Mustangs, Camaros, and Challengers dominate this Memorial Day weekend kickoff to the racing season at Lime Rock Park’s natural-terrain motorsport course. With on-site camping available, hard-core enthusiasts show up early for practice and qualifying runs on Friday and stay through the Saturday and Monday races. A popular car show provides Sunday entertainment. With no grandstands, spectators are free to set up with picnics on the lawns.

Where: 60 White Hollow Road, Lakeville, Connecticut

Contact: 860-435-5000, limerock.com

Atlantic Puffin or Common Puffin, Fratercula arctica, in front of white background
Participants may be able to spot puffins at the Acadia Birding Festival along with dozens of other species.Adobe Stock

2. ACADIA BIRDING FESTIVAL

When: June 3-6

The warblers are starting to nest, shearwaters are arriving, and woodpeckers are announcing themselves with a drumroll in the trees. During past festivals, more than 170 species of birds have been spotted or heard in Acadia National Park’s many different environments. This year should feature similar diversity. Birding walks, lectures, and a large-boat expedition to see puffins and other oceanic species are all part of the search.

Where: Various locations, Mount Desert Island, Maine

Contact: 207-233-3694, acadiabirdingfestival.com

3. PIONEER VALLEY WINE EXPO

When: June 12-13

Celebrating the fine wineries and cideries of Central Massachusetts and the Pioneer Valley, this event brings together more than 10 wineries, half a dozen food trucks, and a slew of small musical acts for sipping, quaffing, eating, and listening outdoors — with tents and a pavilion in case the weather takes a bad turn. Artisans will sell their wares and both days will feature a farmers’ market.

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Where: Brimfield Auction Acres, 35 Main Street, Brimfield, Massachusetts

Contact: 413-634-5091, brimfieldwinery.com

4. HERITAGE MUSEUMS & GARDENS ANNUAL AUTO SHOW

When: June 12

Early Ford V8 automobiles will have pride of place among the dozens of vehicles spread over two fields on the richly landscaped grounds of the Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich. But all makes and models are welcome, so you might find everything from Model T’s to muscle cars and hot rods. Save time to take the kids on a car-themed scavenger hunt and then find a spot to watch the 2 p.m. parade of cars through the grounds.

Where: 67 Grove Street, Sandwich, Massachusetts

Contact: 508-888-3300, heritagemuseumsandgardens.org

Beautiful american hot rod isolated on white background
You might find everything from Model T’s to muscle cars and hot rods at Heritage Museums & Gardens Annual Auto Show, on Cape Cod.Adobe Stock

5. 21st ANNUAL HAMPTON BEACH MASTER SAND SCULPTING CLASSIC

When: June 17-20

Hampton Beach will be a flurry of activity as 10 world-class sculptors each turn 10 tons of sand into a masterpiece. The awards ceremony at the Seashell Stage on Saturday night will be capped off with a fireworks display. The sculptures remain on view through June 27, along with a 100-ton behemoth created as a group project earlier in the week. Nighttime illumination makes them even more magical.

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Where: Hampton Beach (north of Seashell Stage), New Hampshire

Website: hamptonbeach.org

Ten sand sculptors will create masterpieces the weekend of June 17th during the 21st annual Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Classic.
Ten sand sculptors will create masterpieces the weekend of June 17th during the 21st annual Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Classic.

6. THIRD ANNUAL JUNETEENTH RI CELEBRATION

When: June 19

This festival commemorates the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans and celebrates centuries of strength and resilience. Local poets, singers, and dancers will perform and old-school games like cornhole and tug of war will keep the children busy. There will be plenty of food along with vendors of multicultural goods and a health and wellness fair.

Where: Temple to Music, Roger Williams Park, Providence, Rhode Island

Contact: 401-288-7864, juneteenthri.com

7. ROCKFIRE

When: June 25-26

This celebration of Barre’s historic granite quarries begins Friday with a walk between bonfire-lit stages where actors portray local history. The first half is flat and wheelchair accessible. Recommended for ages 7-plus. Saturday’s 1½-mile FireWalk (ages 10-plus) on a different trail begins with a concert and “molten metal” performance art by Iron Guild. Bagpipers lead the way to the luminary-lit trail where eight stages feature live music.

Where: 59 Little John Road, Websterville, Vermont

Contact: 802-279-2221, rockfirevt.com

RockFire in Vermont.
RockFire in Vermont.

8. LAND OF ENCHANTMENT: A FANTASTICAL OUTDOOR SCULPTURE EXHIBITION OPENING DAY

When: July 10

Dragons, phoenixes, and wizards, oh my! The sprawling grounds of the Norman Rockwell Museum turn into a fairyland, thanks to 25 fantasy sculptures by regional artists. On opening day between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., kids can meet the sculptors, search for fairies, create a dragon egg, and enjoy ice cream on the terrace. The juried installation complements the Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration exhibition inside, which opens June 12; both run through Halloween.

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Where: Norman Rockwell Museum, 9 Glendale Road/Route 183, Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Contact: 413-298-4100, nrm.org

9. NORTH ATLANTIC BLUES FESTIVAL

When: July 10-11

The Rockland Public Landing at Rockland Harbor will pulse to a blues beat as musicians from around the country showcase their unique styles. Between acts, you can watch the boat traffic in the harbor while enjoying the fresh ocean breeze. Vendors will offer crafts and food. Yes, you’ll be able to order a lobster roll in the self-proclaimed Lobster Capital of the World.

Where: Public Landing, Rockland, Maine

Contact: 207-691-2248, northatlanticbluesfestival.com

10. MAINE POTATO BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

When: July 10-18

Aroostook County’s premier summer event — a nine-day family-friendly fest — starts with the townwide yard sale and cornhole tournament, and concludes with fireworks over the Aroostook River on the final Sunday night. Alas, there won’t be the usual mashed potato wrestling or Potato Blossom Queen pageant this year, but the event is otherwise expected to be largely intact for 2021. Fiddlers on the bandstand, food vendors on the streets, and a beer garden with varieties brewed in nearby Caribou ensure a lively time.

Where: Various locations, Fort Fairfield, Maine

Website: facebook.com/MainePotatoBlossomFestival

11. BRIMFIELD ANTIQUE FLEA MARKET

When: July 13-18

If you can’t find what you’re looking for at this extravaganza of antiques and collectibles, it probably doesn’t exist. Dealers at 20 different “shows” set up along a mile-long stretch of Route 20. Serious collectors usually arrive on weekdays as the shows begin to open. Saturday is the best day to take it all in; Sunday is more relaxed. Some dealers leave early; those who remain might be more open to bargaining so they can lighten their loads.

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Where: Route 20, Brimfield, Massachusetts

Contact: brimfieldantiquefleamarket.com

The Brimfield Antique Flea Market. Courtesy New England Motel & Antiques Market
The Brimfield Antique Flea Market runs from July 13 to July 18.

12. THE MAINE RENAISSANCE FAIRE

When: July 17-18, 24-25

If the medieval period had been this grand, we’d all still be wearing jerkins and heading to Fenway for the Saturday afternoon joust. The make-believe is all in good fun and a charming escape to ye olden tyme with jousting, Celtic music, sword play, medieval and New Age crafts, acrobats, jesters, and more. Slake your thirst with cold ale or mead and devour roast turkey legs, corn on the cob, and other fare without aid of silverware.

Where: Acton Fairgrounds, 550 Route 109, Acton, Maine

Contact: 207-850-1162, themainerenfaire.com

13. FringePVD: THE PROVIDENCE FRINGE FESTIVAL

When: July 18-31

Unjuried and uncensored, Providence Fringe sets the imagination free. Representing theater, comedy, dance, acrobatics, circus, music, and performance art, the 38 in-person groups (and another 37 confirmed for online shows) at this year’s festival range from the sweet to the outrageous. Most live events are outdoors around WaterFire Arts Center, with a few in the cavernous main hall with its 40-foot ceiling. One day will feature the kid-friendly antics of Family Fringe.

Where: WaterFire Arts Center, 475 Valley Street, Providence, Rhode Island

Contact: 401-400-7100, fringepvd.org

Visitors at FringePVD: The Providence Fringe Festival in 2019.
Visitors at FringePVD: The Providence Fringe Festival in 2019.james lastowski

14. NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL

When: July 23-25 and 26-28

Pandemic capacity limitations wreaked havoc with plans for this grandparent of all folk festivals, so the 2021 edition is broken into two three-day sessions of concerts, storytelling, and workshops. British soul sensation Yola was the first to announce she’s coming; she’ll be only the sixth artist to perform at both the Newport Folk and Newport Jazz festivals the same year. Festival members got the first crack at early tickets. As advisories on capacity are issued, more tickets are expected to be released to the public.

Where: Fort Adams State Park, 90 Fort Adams Drive, Newport, Rhode Island

Website: newportfolk.org

Yola is scheduled to perform at both the Newport Folk and the Newport Jazz festivals this year.
Yola is scheduled to perform at both the Newport Folk and the Newport Jazz festivals this year.nina westervelt

15. NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL

When: July 30-August 1

Ever since Miles Davis’s 1955 solo on “‘Round Midnight,” jazz fans have dreamt of hearing landmark live performances on the lawns at Newport. In contrast with years past, 2021 will be a more intimate gathering of performances and collaborations before a capacity-limited crowd. Tickets are being released in stages in the coming weeks.

Where: Fort Adams State Park, 90 Fort Adams Drive, Newport, Rhode Island

Website: newportjazz.org

16. ANNUAL CRAFTSMEN’S FAIR

When: August 7-15

Craftspeople — 300 overall are expected this year — bring their best work to this fair, organizers say. More than 180 artisans will set up booths; others display in the communal Shop at the Fair tent. If you’re looking for something special, check the Art, Craft, and Design exhibit, where many craftspeople place their best pieces. For up-and-coming talent, peruse the “Next Generation” works by children mentored by League of New Hampshire Craftsmen members.

Where: Mount Sunapee Resort, Newbury, New Hampshire

Contact: 603-224-3375, nhcrafts.org

17. WASHINGTON COUNTY FAIR

When: August 11-15

You might hear the twang of country music before you even enter the gates of this old-time county fair that celebrates a way of life that seems especially appealing after a year of pandemic stress. Livestock shows, tractor and oxen pulls, and the lights and sounds of the midway combine with stage concerts and country-fair food for several days of hay-scented fun.

Where: 78 Richmond Townhouse Road, Route 112, Richmond, Rhode Island

Website: washingtoncountyfair-ri.com

18. MYSTIC OUTDOOR ART FESTIVAL

When: August 14-15

Billed as the oldest festival of its kind in the Northeast, this arts and crafts market takes over the streets of historic downtown Mystic for two days in mid-August. Easel paintings in oils, acrylics, and watercolors stand side by side with photography and even comics panels — not to mention wood, glass, ceramics, and fiber arts. More than 200 artists from around the country are usually juried.

Where: Mystic, Connecticut

Contact: 860-572-9578, mysticchamber.org

The annual WoodenBoat Show in Mystic, Connecticut, will include boatbuilding demonstrations and exhibitors selling nautical gear and more.
The annual WoodenBoat Show in Mystic, Connecticut, will include boatbuilding demonstrations and exhibitors selling nautical gear and more.

19. 29th ANNUAL WOODENBOAT SHOW

When: August 20-22

Not to disparage fiberglass or aluminum hulls, but nothing matches the sheer appeal of a handcrafted wooden boat. This show features more than 100 traditional wooden boats ranging from kayaks to mahogany runabouts to schooners and even modest daysailers. Exhibitors will sell maritime art, books, tools, and nautical gear. Boatbuilding demos will probably inspire some show-goers to fill their garages next winter with the heady smells of sawdust and spar varnish.

Where: Mystic Seaport Museum, 75 Greenmanville Avenue, Mystic, Connecticut

Contact: 860-572-0711, mysticseaport.org

The Milford Oyster Festival packs in activities for both children and adults.
The Milford Oyster Festival packs in activities for both children and adults.Adobe Stock

20. MILFORD OYSTER FESTIVAL

When: August 21

Roughly 30,000 oysters harvested from local waters usually star in an oyster-shucking contest and on the food vendors’ menus. Organizers pack a lot into one day and hope to offer as many festival favorites as possible — an arts and crafts exhibit, a classic car show, canoe and kayak races, and two stages of musical performances for both adults and children.

Where: Various locations, Milford, Connecticut

Website: milfordoysterfestival.com

21. MOUNT WASHINGTON VALLEY AUGUST CRAFT FAIR

When: August 21-22

New England’s artists and craftspeople are a talented lot. About 100 of them will display their pottery, jewelry, quilts, wood carvings, photography, handmade soaps, and cosmetics at this two-day event. Organizers promise live music, traditional fair food, and views of the summit of Mount Washington. Friendly pets on a leash are welcome.

Where: Schouler Park, Route 16, North Conway, New Hampshire

Contact: 603-528-4014, joycescraftshows.com

About 100 artists and crafts people will take part in the two-day Mount Washington Valley craft fair.
About 100 artists and crafts people will take part in the two-day Mount Washington Valley craft fair.

22. GREEN RIVER FESTIVAL

When: August 27-29

Stake out your spot on the Franklin County Fairgrounds grass for three days of roots, country, bluegrass, Americana, and even a bit of rock and soul. Regional talents such as Kris Delmhorst and Jeffrey Foucault share the stage with the likes of Ani DiFranco, jazz/R&B phenom Jon Batiste, and the Afro-Cuban rhythms of Cimafunk. Food and refreshments for all ages will be available.

Where: Franklin County Fairgrounds, 85 Wisdom Way, Greenfield, Massachusetts

Contact: 413-341-5995, greenriverfestival.com

Lake Street Dive plays the 2017 Green River Festival in Massachusetts.
Lake Street Dive plays the 2017 Green River Festival in Massachusetts.Oliver Scott

23. QUECHEE HOT AIR BALLOON FESTIVAL

When: September 3-5

The music starts late Friday afternoon and the first balloons rise at 6 p.m. Early birds can enter at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday for the magical dawn ascents, while “balloon glows” entrance the crowds daily at dusk. Musicians play through the days while magicians and jugglers mingle with the crowd. A skydiving show, crafts, and lots of food round out the weekend. A dedicated Kid’s Zone features a bounce house.

Where: Village Green, Quechee, Vermont

Contact: 802-295-7900, quecheeballoonfestival.com

The Quechee Hot Air Balloon Festival in Vermont.
The Quechee Hot Air Balloon Festival in Vermont.amelia cordischi

24. RHYTHM & ROOTS FESTIVAL

When: September 3-5

If it’s part of the rich gumbo of our national music, someone will be performing it at this joyous end-of-summer celebration of blues, zydeco, bluegrass, Americana, and more. The lineup is still evolving but will include longtime favorites like John Hiatt and Rusted Root. On-site camping offers the bonus of sometimes hearing the performers (who also camp) as they jam after hours.

Where: Ninigret Park, 4890A Old Post Road, Charlestown, Rhode Island

Contact: 401-783-3926, rhythmandroots.com

The Laconia Indian Historical Association's annual Labor Day Weekend Pow Wow is filled with camaraderie, cultural demonstrations, storytelling, and craft vendors.
The Laconia Indian Historical Association's annual Labor Day Weekend Pow Wow is filled with camaraderie, cultural demonstrations, storytelling, and craft vendors.

25. LIHA 50th ANNUAL LABOR DAY WEEKEND POW WOW

When: September 4-5

The drumming and dancing start at noon each day and continue into the night at this final event of the Laconia Indian Historical Association festival season. The intertribal gathering is filled with camaraderie, cultural demonstrations and education sessions, storytelling, and a whole lot of craft vendors. Host drum is a local group, Heavy Rain. Traditional Native American foods such as turkey and corn highlight the Sunday night closing feast. Tent and trailer camping available.

Where: 117 Osgood Road, Sanbornton, New Hampshire

Website: facebook.com/LIHAofNH.org

MORE IDEAS FOR EXPLORING NEW ENGLAND:

Pack your sunblock and your patience when you visit the Cape this summer

The Black Heritage Trail: A walking tour deep into Boston’s history

Tips for saving money and exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations this summer

A plant lover’s guide to 16 gorgeous gardens and arboretums

Eight great places for bird-watching

30,000 steps on Cape Cod: A three-day walking tour

Professional guides reveal their favorite fly-fishing spots

Newport Music Festival launches summer season July 4th with Grammy-nominated classical music artists

The 5 best places for bird-watching in Rhode Island


Patricia Harris and David Lyon are frequent contributors to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.