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Weekend Fun Guide | Globe Magazine

35 events to make the most of summer in New England

New Hampshire sand sculpting, Vermont hot air balloons, a Maine lobster fest, and more ideas to fill every sunny minute.

Ben Voldman for the Boston Globe


> Blast From the Bayou

Connecticut / June 9-12

Louisiana’s musical stew simmers in woodsy southeastern Connecticut. This 20th Annual Cajun Zydeco Festival includes nouveau zydeco accordionist Geno Delafose as well as the Pine Leaf Boys, who reinvigorate dance-hall standards. Since listeners won’t be able to sit still, two floors are set for dancing. Basic campsites are free, but first come, first served. Strawberry Park, 42 Pierce Road, Preston, 800-356-2460, strawberrypark.net

> Bikes, Bevs & Beats Festival

Vermont / June 10-12

Group rides showcase the town of Stowe’s 30-mile trail network, ranging from 5-mile family-friendly pedals to “epic rides” for hard-core cyclists stretching up to 30 miles. Register onsite Saturday afternoon at Sushi Yoshi for the adult tricycle race, and expect live music and many beverage tastings. On Sunday, easy rides, games, and a cookout at the Trapp Family Lodge are good for kids. Various locations, Stowe, stowemountainbike.com

> Kids Con New England


New Hampshire / June 11

Organizers say that comic books help promote literacy and encourage budding artists, but your kids will be so busy meeting their favorite superheroes at this Granite State event (Spider-Man! Green Lantern!) and participating in cartooning workshops and Jedi training that they won’t realize they’re learning, too. Creative costumes encouraged. Holiday Inn, 172 North Main Street, Concord, kidsconne.com

JUNE 17 to 19

> Volleyball and Sand Sculpting

Martha Lardent

New Hampshire / June 15-18

In one of summer’s biggest tournaments, 140 volleyball players ages 9 to 22 take to the nets at Hampton Beach on June 18 for the New England Open Beach Volleyball Tournament. It’s all in good fun, but some are vying to participate in national championships. Take a break from the athletic competitions to watch 10 of the world’s best sand sculptors compete for prizes based on the originality, difficulty, and “wow” factor of their creations. People’s Choice voting for the Master Sand Sculpting Competition (June 16-18) takes place Saturday from 1-3 p.m., and fireworks cap the evening awards ceremony. Hampton Beach: volleyball tournament, 603-801-3923, spikeu.org; sand sculpting, 603-548-6002, hamptonbeach.org


> Quechee Hot Air Balloon Craft and Music Festival

Vermont / June 17-19

At the 37th installment of this popular event, early risers can ride or watch as up to 20 balloons lift off at 6 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. But if you’re not a morning person, 6 p.m. ascensions are also scheduled daily. Photographers love the illuminated “Balloon Glow” on Friday and Saturday at dusk. Live music, parachute demonstrations, crafts booths, and food vendors round out the weekend. 70 Village Green Circle, Quechee, 802-295-7900, quecheeballoonfestival.com


> Vermont Quilt Festival

Vermont / June 24-26

Exhibitions at this 40th anniversary festival celebrate three centuries of quilt stitchers from Vermont, and explore the modern artistic evolution of quilts around the world, including works from Germany, Australia, and Japan. Bring a new or antique quilt for an expert appraisal (which costs $50-$70) or purchase supplies to make your own. Champlain Valley Exposition, 105 Pearl Street, Essex Junction, 802-872-0034, vqf.org

> Portland Is for Runners

Maine / June 25-26

Two 5K races in Greater Portland this weekend emphasize fun over finishing time. Organizers of the Craft Brew Races on Saturday encourage runners to don costumes. (Slowpokes might dress as Ninja Turtles.) Walkers are welcome, but you’ll want to hurry to have time to try local craft beers, with unlimited samples included in the $50-$65 entry fee. You won’t need a costume for the Color Run on Sunday, since you’ll be coated in a rainbow of colored powders tossed from the sidelines. Save some energy for the music and dancing at the finish line. Craft Brew, Edward Payson Park, 700 Baxter Boulevard, Portland, 401-856-9197, craftbrewraces.com; Color Run, 2 Fort Road, South Portland, thecolorrun.com


> New England Vintage Base Ball Festival

Matthew Muise

Maine / June 25-26

Organized “base ball” began in New York in the 1840s and spread south during the Civil War. That’s why reenactors will set up a small Civil War encampment during this event that celebrates America’s Game as it has been played since 1864. Six East Coast teams each play four games, competing for Ye Olde Bragging Rights. Cornish Fairgrounds, Route 25, Cornish, 207-542-6928, newenglandvintagebaseballfestival.wordpress.com


> The Ancients & Horribles Parade

Rhode Island / July 1-4

“Silent Cal” Coolidge was president when the Ancients & Horribles Parade (a spoof on the staid parades of the Ancient & Honorable Artillery, the oldest chartered military company in North America) first cast a wry eye on the political scene. For this 90th event, the current election cycle makes float builders as giddy as stand-up comics. The parade kicks off at 4 p.m. Monday after a weekend of music, carnival rides, and fireworks (on Saturday). Route 44, Chepachet, 401-217-9966, ancientsandhorribles.org


> Boston Harborfest

Massachusetts / July 1-4

The whole city joins in at this four-day fest, the country’s largest Fourth of July celebration. Events include a worship service at Old North Church, scavenger hunts at Old South Meeting House, and an array of walking tours and harbor cruises. Saturday’s Wet Paint Auction highlights local artists, while Sunday’s Taste of Harborfest features local chefs. Illuminated boats and a fireworks display light up the inner harbor on the night of Saturday, July 2. (The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, unaffiliated with Harborfest, takes place on Monday.) Various locations, Boston, 617-439-7700, bostonharborfest.com

> Independence Day Festivities

Maine / July 4

Bar Harbor packs a summer’s worth of activities into one day, beginning with a blueberry pancake breakfast and ending with fireworks over the bay. In between, watch a parade, peruse a craft fair, eat lobster and strawberry shortcake, cheer for racing lobsters, and enjoy an old-time band concert. Various locations, Bar Harbor, 800-345-4617, barharborinfo.com/events/july-4th.aspx


> Ohana Music and Art Festival

Vermont / July 7-10

The ethos of Organic Vermont comes front and center at this farm-based fest. In addition to three stages featuring New England bands, highlights include an animal petting zoo, glass blowing, a drum circle and spiritual healing tent, and a walk-through LED black-light art exhibit. Local food vendors and organic farmers provide the grub. Proceeds build beehives for local farms and orchards. 31 Tabor Hill Road, Fairfax, 802-752-9495, ohanafest.wix.com/ohanafest


Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival. Ben Hughes

> Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival

Massachusetts / July 8-17

It wouldn’t be summer on Cape Cod without shaggy-headed hydrangea blooms in practically every front yard. Tours of private gardens where the pink, blue, and white flowers flourish are the highlight of this festival. Lectures and demonstrations detail the fine points of hydrangea care. Various locations, Cape Cod, 508-362-3225, capecodhydrangeafest.com

> Riverfest

Connecticut / July 9

Who doesn’t want more fireworks? Peonies, comets, and skyrockets burst over the Connecticut River on Saturday night at Riverfest in Hartford. Arrive earlier in the day to enjoy the hip-hop dance competition and the children’s bounce houses. And sample the empanadas, tacos, cheesesteaks, and bacon cheeseburger “chompers” at the Riverfest Food Truck Festival, taking place July 7-9. Mortensen Riverfront Plaza, 300 Columbus Boulevard, Hartford, and Great River Park, 301 East River Drive, East Hartford, 860-713-3131; riverfront.org


> Brimfield Antique Show

Massachusetts / July 12-17

Whether you’re looking for duck decoys or vintage Barbies, you’ll probably find them at this massive gathering of dealers in antiques, collectibles, and interesting old stuff. Most of the 20,000 or so sellers expect some friendly bargaining with the 200,000-plus shoppers and are often most generous on the last day, when they face the prospect of packing everything up and hauling it back home. Route 20, Brimfield, 413-283-2418, qhma.com

> Rochester Blues and BBQ Festival

New Hampshire / July 16

Singer and guitarist Kerri Powers headlines entertainment that includes such favorites as 12-string barrelhouse guitarist “Poor Howard” Stith, backed on blues harp by Mike “Bullfrog” Rogers. The barbecue cook-off awards prizes for best chicken, pulled pork, ribs, and “chef’s choice.” Buy a ticket to sample everything and vote for the People’s Choice. Otherwise, competitors sell food at their tables after the judging. Save room for Rochester Main Street’s blueberry dumplings. North Main Street at Cocheco Riverwalk, Rochester, 603-330-3208, rochestermainstreet.org


> Newport Folk Festival

Rhode Island / July 22-24

It’s been more than 50 years since Bob Dylan scandalized folkie sensibilities by taking to the festival stage with an electric guitar. Nowadays, tradition and innovation mix seamlessly at Newport. This year’s performers range from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to folk rocker Matthew Logan Vasquez and Ghana-born, Nashville-raised Ruby Amanfu. A “chair-free zone” guarantees plenty of room for dancing. Check the festival website for fan-to-fan resale tickets to sold-out events. Fort Adams State Park, 90 Fort Adams Drive, Newport, 401-848-5055, newportfolk.org

> Antique & Classic Boat Rendezvous

Andy Price

Connecticut / July 23-24

Given the elbow grease it takes to restore and maintain a classic vessel, it’s no wonder that owners enjoy letting the boatless admire their work. As a bonus to visiting the re-created maritime village of Mystic Seaport, about 35 boats will join the Seaport’s own historic vessels, including the 150-year-old Emma C. Berry. On Sunday, they line up for a 3-mile parade down the Mystic River and through the village drawbridge as announcers offer commentary from Mystic River Park. 75 Greenmanville Avenue, Mystic, 860-572-0711, mysticseaport.org


> Ossipee Valley Music Festival

Maine / July 28-31

This eclectic festival celebrates roots and Americana music from bluegrass and country to alt-rock and blues — with an ear for up-and-coming artists. Bring your instrument if you want to meet performers in workshop settings. You can also take early morning yoga classes, swim in the Ossipee River, and sample local fare at Saturday night’s chicken barbecue and Sunday’s farm-to-table brunch. Campgrounds include a quiet area set aside for families. Ossipee Valley Fairgrounds, 291 South Hiram Road, South Hiram, 207-625-8656, ossipeevalley.com

> Bang on a Can Marathon

Massachusetts / July 30

Mass MoCA’s three-week festival of contemporary music concludes with a six-hour music marathon. With the synergy of so many adventurous musicians and composers in residence, you never know what to expect, but the marathon will feature work by nature-inspired composer John Luther Adams and a world premiere by Bang on a Can All-Stars clarinetist, saxophonist, and composer Ken Thomson. 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams, 413-662-2111, massmoca.org


Ben Voldman for the Boston Globe

> Maine Lobster Festival

Maine / August 3-7

It takes the “World’s Largest Lobster Cooker” to steam up to 25,000 pounds of lobster devoured by the hungry crowds at this venerable festival, now in its 69th year in Rockland. In addition to the Saturday morning parade, festival highlights include the coronation of the Sea Goddess, a seafood cooking contest, a 10K road race, and a kids’ fun run. Anyone crazy enough can enter the Great International Crate Race, but it’s even harder than it looks to run across a string of floating wooden boxes in the harbor. Various locations, Rockland, 800-562-2529, mainelobsterfestival.com

> Feast of the Blessed Sacrament

Massachusetts / August 4-7

There is no admission fee to this mega-celebration of Portuguese heritage, but if you are 21, get a wristband so that you can sample Madeira wine imported in big oak casks. Everyone can enjoy the folk songs and dance, performances by the likes of Living on a Bad Name (a Bon Jovi tribute band) and Irmaos Justino (a local Portuguese dance music trio), and the Sunday parade. Be sure to sample malasadas (a doughnut-like Portuguese fried treat), and buy skewers of beef to cook yourself over the 40-foot-long barbecue pit. Kids’ entertainment delights youngsters on Saturday afternoon. Madeira Field, 50 Madeira Avenue, New Bedford, 508-992-6911, portuguesefeast.com

> Craftsmen’s Fair

New Hampshire, August 6-14

If the work of more than 250 craftspeople spurs you to explore your own creative side, this fair features workshops and demonstrations in blacksmithing, quilting, ceramics, and more. To learn to become a more informed buyer, sign up for a Lunch & Learn session with a master maker. Special exhibits highlight how crafts can enhance personal style or enliven a home or garden. Mount Sunapee Resort, 1398 Route 103, Newbury, 603-224-3375, nhcrafts.org


> Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival


Massachusetts / August 8-13

The Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group kicks off this annual festival — known for spotlighting African-Americans in all segments of the film industry — with a live dance performance on opening night. Feature, documentary, and short films focus on established and up-and-coming talent. Single-day and all-access passes available. Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center, 100 Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, Oak Bluffs, mvaaff.com

> Circus Smirkus Finale Weekend

Vermont / August 12-13

After almost two months on the road, this traveling youth circus returns to its home base in rural Vermont. Follow a winding dirt road until you reach a field with an old barn and a circular big-top circus tent. For this year’s show, young acrobats and clowns ages 11 to 18 explore the magic of flight, from birds and hot air balloons to the invention of the airplane. World Headquarters Circus Barn, 1 Circus Road, Greensboro, 877-746-7587, smirkus.org

> Mother Earth’s Creations Pow Wow

New Hampshire, August 13-14

Up to 200 Native Americans from throughout New England make their grand entry in full regalia at 2 p.m. and welcome visitors to join in traditional dances. “If you can walk, you can dance,” the organizers say. When you need a break, peruse the craft vendors or try buffalo, elk, or venison burgers with sweet potato chips. 2145 White Mountain Highway, Center Ossipee, 603-323-8181, 603-539-6697, motherearthscreation.com


> Washington County Fair

Rhode Island / August 17-21

A birthday cake-eating contest is one of the special events to celebrate the 50th edition of this fair, but 4-H livestock shows and baking contests never grow old. Tractors, motorcycles, lawn mowers, and trucks all compete in pulling contests. Organizers have scheduled live country music and always offer separate midways for kids and adults. 78 Richmond Townhouse Road, Richmond, 401-539-7042, washingtoncountyfair-ri.com

> Stowe Tango Music Festival


Vermont / August 18-21

This weekend, festival organizers aim to make Stowe the tango capital of the United States. The workshops, dance classes, dance parties, and performances should inspire anyone to embrace this most sultry of art forms. For further motivation, the festival’s biggest concert features a 20-piece orchestra and some of the world’s top dancers, including Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo of the Broadway hit Forever Tango. Various locations, Stowe, 802-779-9669, stowetangomusicfestival.com


> Blistered Fingers Family Bluegrass Festival

Maine / August 24-28

Get plenty of rest before this family-friendly festival, where there’s 24-hour pickin’ in the campground. This year’s lineup features such festival favorites as the Gibson Brothers and the Baker Family and newer acts like the Band of Ruhks. Performers often sit in on jam sessions or offer pointers at the kids’ academy. The youngsters perform on Saturday, and the festival closes with a Sunday gospel concert. Litchfield Fairgrounds, 30 Plains Road, Litchfield, 207-873-6539, blisteredfingers.com

> Slide the City

Massachusetts / August 27

Wear your bathing suit and bring your water toys to downtown Holyoke, where you can pay for your turn on a 1,000-foot water slide — about the length of three city blocks. Bring your own tube or buy one there for a single slide. Tubes are provided for multiple slides. With live music, food, and drinks, it’s like a beach party without the beach. Intersection Appleton and High streets, Holyoke, slidethecity.com


> Gloucester Schooner Festival

John Blanding/globe file

Massachusetts / September 2-4

This festival plays up the grace and beauty of the sailing vessels that made Gloucester a famous fishing port. Saturday’s Heritage Day features family activities, street food, and tours of the ships. A small parade of lights down the Annisquam River on Saturday is followed by fireworks over the harbor. The best spots to watch the Sunday morning Parade of Sail are Stacy Boulevard, Stage Fort Park, and the end of Eastern Point — where the schooners head to open water for the races. Various locations, Gloucester, 978-281-0470, gloucesterschoonerfestival.net

> Dancing Under The Stars

Massachusetts / September 3

There’s no more romantic way to end the Tanglewood season than dancing to big band classics on a wooden dance floor on the lawn. Led by Keith Lockhart, the Boston Pops Swing Orchestra will be making its first appearance at the legendary music center. Koussevitzky Music Shed, 297 West Street, Lenox, 888-266-1200, bso.org


Cape Cod National Seashore.National Park Service

To celebrate its 100th birthday, the National Park Service is waiving admission at all its parks for 16 days this year, including August 25-28. It’s a good chance to see a gentleman’s farm at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock, Vermont (where the fee for the mansion tour is waived), learn about industrial history at Lowell National Historical Park (where Boott Cotton Mills Museum admission is waived), or admire the work of one of America’s greatest memorial sculptors at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire.

In this election year, learn about America’s first political dynasty at the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy — or escape the madness altogether along the rocky shores of Acadia National Park in Maine or the sandy beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore, where fees are waived from August 25 through 29. Most other national historic sites or parks are always free.

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