THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Things get a little swampy at northwest Ohio’s festivals, and that’s a good thing.
The area is, after all, the Great Black Swamp and while that moniker isn’t so accurate anymore given all the development, the region’s ethnic heritage and geographical quirks make it a wonderful place for fun traditions like King Wamba parades, Polish street festivals, and things like the Festival of Fish.
With that in mind, here’s a look at three of the bigger festivals that are centered in the region’s two major metropolitan areas —Toledo and Bowling Green — accompanied by a rundown of some of the other events throughout northwest Ohio.
Old West End Festival
Toledo’s Old West End is a gentrified neighborhood with demographics that include the city’s young arts class and upscale professionals mixed in with folks who’ve lived in the neighborhood for generations.
The beautiful houses are examples of colonial, Georgian, Italian Renaissance, Dutch colonial, and Arts and Crafts styles and one of the best ways to tour some of them is the annual Old West End Festival, which this year takes place Saturday and June 5.
The streets are blocked off and thousands of people flock to the area to listen to music, check out various artists, eat the good food, and explore the neighborhood. One of the treats is that the world renowned Toledo Museum of Art is a short walk from the neighborhood. Two major must-see exhibits — Frank Stella: Irregular Polygons and The Baroque World of Fernando Botero — will be at the museum the same time as the festival.
And you won’t want to miss the King Wamba Carnival Parade, which has been around since 1909 and is presented by the Mystic Order of Odelots (Odelot is "Toledo" spelled backwards). It’s weird and fun and features the crowning of King Wamba and Queen Sancha.
The festival sponsored by the Old West End Association is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. The parade is at 10 a.m. Saturday. The festival is free, but there is a fee for the home tour, which has not yet been set. Information: www.toledooldwestend.com.
Lagrange Street Polish Festival
Toledo has long been known for its eastern European ethnic groups who helped build the city in the early 20th century. For more than a hundred years there has been a tradition of Polish, Hungarian, and German immigrants in the blue-collar city on Lake Erie and many of the traditions from those groups continue to this day.
The Lagrange Street Polish Festival July 8-10 is one of the biggest festivals in the area — last year it attracted 25,000 visitors — and, as its name suggests, the event celebrates the city’s Polish residents.
Expect some of the finest polka bands in the country, lots of Polish food, plenty of beer, and even a piergoi-eating contest.
Admission is $4 on July 8 and 9 and $3 on July 10. Kids 8 and younger get in for free and admission is $3 for Golden Buckeye card holders. Hours are 5 p.m. to midnight on July 8; noon to midnight on July 9, and noon to 7 p.m. on July 10. Information: www.polishfestival.org.
Black Swamp Arts Festival
Bowling Green’s Black Swamp Arts festival in the late summer generally benefits from great weather, turning this college town about 20 miles south of Toledo into a massive arts fair featuring some of the best free live music you can find anywhere in the Midwest.
The festival planners generally aim for eclectic national musical acts, like last year’s awesome Saturday night show that featured Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women, Los Straitjackets, and Cajun greats BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet. As of press time the music had yet to be lined up for this year’s festival, but expect some intriguing big names and various types of music on smaller stages throughout town.
The food is awesome, the juried art exhibit is impressive, and Bowling Green itself shines with its unique downtown shops and restaurants. More than 60,000 people attended last year’s festival. Best of all, it’s free.
This year’s Black Swamp Arts Festival is Sept. 9, 10, and 11. Hours are 5 p.m.-midnight Sept. 9; 10 a.m. to midnight Sept. 10, and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 11. Information: www.blackswamparts.org.
Here’s a rundown of some of the festivals in northwest Ohio:
Second Annual Blues and Jazz Festival, June 11, 3 p.m.-midnight, featuring Janiva Magness, Tony Monaco, Ron Yarosz & the Vehicle, Swamp Kings at Centennial Terrace, 5773 Centennial Rd., Sylvania. This fund-raiser helps feed the hungry and homeless in Lucas, Fulton, Wood, Henry, Williams, Defiance, Sandusky, and Ottawa counties. Cost: $25. Information: www.toledofoodbank.org.
Festival of the Fish, June 17-19 in the Erie County village of Vermilion. This is the 44th year for the event that features a lighted boat parade, a sand castle-building contest, and other activities. It’s free every day and a parade will be held June 19 at 12:30 p.m. Information: 440-967-4477 or http://vermilionohio.com.
Latino Fest in Promenade Park June 18 will feature Latino music, folkloric and contemporary dance from various Latin American cultures, food, vendors, artists, and family-centered activities. Information: www.latinofesttoledo.com.
Bluffton Festival of Wheels, June 24 in downtown Bluffton, beginning at 2 p.m. The cruise is at 8 p.m. and cars will be judged beginning at 5 p.m. This is the beginning of Bluffton’s week-long sesquicentennial celebration, which will feature daily events until July 2. Information: www.blufftonlions.org.
46th Annual Crosby Festival of the Arts, June 25 and 26, at Toledo Botanical Garden, 5403 Elmer Drive, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. June 25 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. June 26. Admission $8 for adults, children 12 and younger are free. Information: 419-536-5566 or www.toledogarden.org.
Great Mohican Pow-Wow, July 8-10, in the village of Loudonville on the border of Ashland and Richland counties. The event features representatives from Native American tribes demonstrating the history and traditions of the country’s native people. 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. July 8; 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. July 9, and 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. July 10. Admission fees vary. Information: www.mohicanpowwow.com.
Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival, July 23 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Watch authentic Chinese dragon boats race on the Maumee River in downtown Toledo during this free, fund-raising event. Information: www.partnerstoledo.org.
37th Annual Birmingham Ethnic Festival, Aug. 20 and 21, in one of Toledo’s Hungarian neighborhoods from noon to 10 p.m. each day. This free family event features Hungarian and ethnic foods, arts and crafts exhibits, cultural displays, and a wide variety of music, dance, and continuous entertainment. Information: http://birminghamethnicfestival.wordpress.com.
Balloonfest, Aug. 12-14 in Findlay, featuring hot air balloon flights, a classic car show, parades, and other activities. 4 p.m.-9 p.m. Aug. 12; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Aug. 13, and all day long Aug. 14. Information: www.flagcityballoonfest.com.
The German American Festival, Aug. 26-28 in Oak Shade Grove, 3624 Seaman Rd., Oregon. 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Aug. 26; 2 p.m.-1 a.m. Aug. 27, and noon-8 p.m. Aug. 28. Admission is $7 per person to one of Ohio’s oldest ethnic festivals. The event features traditional German music and foods, and, of course, a Hummel lookalike contest. Information: www.gafsociety.org/fest.htm.
The Milan Melon Festival is Labor Day weekend, Sept. 3-5, and will include an auto display, a parade, and all sorts of arts and crafts. Oh, and don’t forget the famous muskmelon ice cream and watermelon sherbet. Information: 419-499-3254 or www.milanmelonfestival.org.
Contact Rod Lockwood at: