The Heart of America - Events

SOPHIE LAM on where to go and what to see
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Indy Lifestyle Online
SPRING Dallas Blooms, Texas

5 March - 10 April

Shake off the winter blues at Dallas Arboretum's celebration of spring. Roughly 400,000 bulbs including azaleas and poppies will be coming into bloom and flooding the 66-acre gardens with colour. The arboretum is also home to the only public display of Huang azaleas outside China. Gardeners will create two 15-ft peacock topiaries with 2,100 square foot tails filled with seasonal flowers as part of the festival. In addition to the burgeoning flora, there will be activities for children, horticultural demonstrations for budding gardeners, horse-drawn cart rides and live music. Further information: 001 214 327 4901; www.dallasarboretum.org Houston International Festival, Texas

23 April - 1 May

The festival adopts a different focus each year and for 2005 it is India. The programme hasn't been announced yet, but last year's bill focused on Thailand and included performers such as Joss Stone, Emmylou Harris and a host of Thai artists. Apart from musical offerings there are also food stalls serving up anything from burritos to bhunas, markets selling local, Indian and Latin arts and crafts and elephant rides. The festival takes place at Reliant Park. Further information: 001 713 654 8808; www.ifest.org Great Chicago Places and Spaces Architecture Festival, Illinois

20-22 May

Explore Chicago by foot, boat, cart or bike on one of the 130 free tours being offered as part of the city's architecture festival. The tours will take visitors to key landmarks, historical monuments and inside buildings that are not normally open to the public. Visitors will benefit from the expert advice of local tour guides and architects. Themes might include tours to view interesting interiors, green spaces or modern skyscrapers. Further information: 001 312 744 6630; www.cityofchicago.org/specialevents Riverfest, Arkansas, Kansas

27-29 May

Past line-ups have included soul veterans James Brown and Al Green, so festival-goers at Arkansas' Riverfest at the Julius Breckling Riverfront Park can expect an impressive show: around 100 international musicians and artists across five stages perform music from all corners of the globe. For visitors not content just to sit back and soak up the atmosphere, peripheral activities include abseiling walls, acrobatics displays and street performers. Further information: 001 501 255 3378; www.riverfestarkansas.com

SUMMER

Music Midtown, Atlanta

10-12 June

The bill for this year's festival is being finalised, so expect a full line-up during the next month. However, the event is well known for its big acts, which last year included The Strokes, Wyclef Jean, Courtney Love and Damien Rice, so get your hands on a ticket early. In addition to the music, visitors are treated to the usual festival components of arts and craft markets, food stalls and children's activities. The Cultural Stage presents performances and art by local artists and there's also a showcase for aspiring DJs. Further information: 001 770 643 8696; www.musicmidtown.com

Juneteenth Freedom Festival, Memphis

18-20 June

This strangely named celebration commemorates the end of slavery in the US and events are traditionally held nationwide. The name originates from the date that Union soldiers arrived at Galveston, Texas announcing the end of the war and the abolition of slavery (19 June 1865) in the county, two years after Lincoln's Emancipation Act. Today, the three-day festivities at Douglass Park in Memphis include music ranging from jazz, blues and gospel to hip-hop as well as horse-riding, games, food stalls and political speeches. Further information: 001 901 385 4943; www.juneteenth.com Taste of Chicago

24 June - 4 July

Treat your tastebuds to Chicago's culinary delights at one of the city's most popular summer events. A host of chefs and food connoisseurs come together in Grant Park in the run-up to the Independence Day celebrations to provide a host of gastronomic treats: learn tips during cookery demonstrations, nibble your way around the gourmet dining pavilion, or aid your digestive system with a ride on the Ferris wheel or water flume. On "Independence Eve" there is a concert and firework display. Further information: 001 312 744 3370; www.cityofchicago.org

Inter-tribal Indian Ceremonial, Gallup, New Mexico

August

Gallup is the largest American Indian settlement in the South-west with Acoma, Hopi, Laguna, Zuni and Navajo tribes still living here. The area's Indian history dates back around 4,000 years to the time of the Anasazi tribe, remnants of whose architecture and pottery is preserved to this day. Each year American Indian history and culture is celebrated at the Inter-Tribe Ceremonial with markets selling locally produced artefacts, rodeos, traditional dances and performances. The focal event is undoubtedly the powwow, with traditional costume and dancing. Further information: 001 888 685 2564; www.gallupnm.org/ceremonial AUTUMN

Hatch Chile Festival, New Mexico

2-3 September

One for hardened taste buds only, although this festival regularly attracts crowds in their thousands. Test your endurance for hot chile (the New Mexican spelling of chilli) and sample the entries of a cook-off. Hatch is well known for its production of capsicum chillies (around 30,000 acres' worth) and its cultivation of new varieties, and the festival is held to celebrate the harvest each year. Peripheral events include chilli roasting, the crowning of Queen Chilli, music and games for children and there are plenty of opportunities to buy the local produce. Further information: 001 505 267 5050; www.hatchchilefest.com Fall Festival, Minneapolis

24 September

The Minneapolis Landscape Arboretum hosts a festival each autumn to herald the seasonal change. Leaf-peepers flock to this 1,000-acre garden, complete with northern climate flora as well as hiking trails through native woodland, marshes and prairie. In winter, the gardens are blanketed with snow and are used for cross-country skiing, but before the snowfall the ground is covered in a carpet of red, brown and auburn leaves. There are also a variety of home-grown apples to try and autumnal events for children. Further information: 001 952 443 1400; www.arboretum.umn.edu Big Tex, Dallas

30 September - 23 October

Texas's state fair is the largest in the US, incorporating a livestock show with an extensive entertainment programme. The 277-acre Fair Park hosts thousands of events including a garden exhibition, a tasting pavilion, a musical, parades, a bird show, American football, world music and a corral. Visitors can get a taste of the Wild West with the livestock competition, a children's ranch and equine demonstrations. Further information: 001 214 565 9931; www.bigtex.com Fredericksburg Food and Wine Festival, Texas

22 October

Texas is well known for its Mexican-influenced food, but perhaps less so for its wine. However, the state is home to one of North America's oldest wineries in Del Rio, which dates back to 1883 and today produces around two million gallons of wine each year. Fredericksburg is one of the state's 65 wineries and is the focal point of the annual Food and Wine Festival. The event showcases local produce with wine tastings, a grape toss and wine auctions. Tex-Mex food is plentiful and there is a wide range of music and entertainment to sit back and enjoy with a glass of Fredericksburg Chardonnay or Muscat in hand. Further information: 001 830 997 8515; www.fbgfoodandwinefest.com WINTER

Winterskol, Aspen

13-16 January 2006

Rub shoulders with the snow-set elite in Aspen at Winterskol, which celebrates its 55th anniversary next year. The annual celebration of winter involves a popular canine fashion show, a race up Little Nell Aspen Mountain, ice sculptures, fireworks and torchlit ski descents down Little Nell. There's also a full entertainment programme with music and performance and late openings at Aspen Art Gallery, not to mention the lively apres-ski, guaranteeing a hedonistic and spirited start for the New Year.

Further information: 001 970 925 1940; www.aspenchamber.org Klondike Days, Eagle River, Wisconsin

February 2006

Although Klondike is in Canada, the gold rush days are also celebrated over the border in Wisconsin at Eagle River's Klondike Days celebration. Attendees are unlikely to get their hands on any gold, but there's still plenty on offer including dog-sled racing, a voyageur encampment, a Native American exposition, snow-mobiling, a lumberjack event, fireworks, bluegrass music, sleigh rides and chainsaw carving. The festival's ethos is to revisit the era of the gold rush days and celebrate early American and Native American culture. Further information: 001 715 477 2810; www.eagleriver.org

Voyageur Winter Festival, Ely, Minnesota

February 2006

The Voyageur Winter Festival's backdrop is provided by extensive and elaborate ice sculptures, created by approximately 100 artists from across the US, Mexico and as far afield as Europe. Past entries have included aquatic scenes, enormous roses, log cabins and birds of prey. There's also a frozen film festival, historic re-enactments, have-a-go ice carving, art and dance displays and a snowshoe trip to the Hegman Pictographs - ancient rock at the North Hegman Lake. Visitors are advised to wrap up, since temperatures have been known to dip as low as -20C. Further information: 001 218 365 6123; www.voyageurwinterfestival.com New Orleans Mardi Gras

28 February 2006

This is the loudest, most brash and most unmissable of New Orleans's annual events. The festival marks the beginning of Lent and allows revellers a day of indulgence before the traditional period of abstinence. The celebrated mask tradition was revived in the mid-19th century after a period of prohibition imposed by the Spanish, and today visitors can expect to see a vibrant array in an assortment of shapes and colours. The main events are the parades, presented by "krewes" (a fanciful spelling for crews) such as Bacchus, Zulu and Mardi Gras Indians. Further information: 001 504 566 5011; www.mardigrasneworleans.com

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