Feast of the Flowering Moon is held in Chillicothe during Memorial Day weekend.
OHNO PRESS Enlarge
Too many banana splits and too much tobacco aren’t recommended.
But summer festivals inspired by them are two reasons to take a drive in southwest Ohio this summer.
So are music, food and, at last, great weather. All are good reasons to anticipate some of the best annual outdoor observances and celebrations of the season.
Here’s a sampling of what’s in store:
Feast of the Flowering Moon
First stop when it comes to celebrating summer: Chillicothe, where residents and thousands of visitors revel in a time of year that the Shawnee Indians designated as the Earth’s rebirth. The Shawnee, who measured the year based on 13 moons, called late May’s the Flowering Moon. Since 1984, Chillicothe has rekindled that spirit through a Feast of the Flowering Moon on Memorial Day weekend.
Attractions include Native American music and dancing, a "mountain men encampment" on the shore of Lake Yoctangee, with working craftsmen and demonstrations; a duck race; a regatta for "Anything That Floats But a Boat"; a cutest-baby contest; a talent show; and a crafts exhibition.
The event draws about 85,000 people annually.
The details: May 27-29, Yoctangee Park, downtown Chillicothe (Ross County); free; 740-887-2979, feastofthefloweringmoon.com
Banana Split Festival
You’ll likely find a smaller crowd at the 17th annual Banana Split Festival in Wilmington, but that’s part of the event’s charm.
Established to commemorate the city’s claim — since challenged by Latrobe, Pa. — as the home of the banana split, it transforms J.W. Denver Park to the 1950s and ’60s soda jerk-era.
The most popular attractions, according to Debbie Stamper of the Clinton County Convention and Visitors Bureau, are a make-your-own banana-split booth, a banana split-eating contest (the use of hands is prohibited), and a banana split "masters" competition in which at least four of the original eight ingredients must be used.
One participant created a banana-split pizza that substituted grated white chocolate for the cheese, for example. "That contest has become a great spectator event," said Ms. Stamper, who added that Wilmington and Latrobe "have a good-natured competition about who was first. We have agreed to disagree."
The details: June 10-11; downtown Wilmington (Clinton County); free; 1-877-428-4748; bananasplitfestival.com
The word "annual" is no longer a given when it comes to many festivals that have relied on sponsorships in the past. Dayton’s music-drenched Cityfolk Festival is one example.
A $5 donation will be requested at the gate this year for the previously free showcase of performances, dancing, food, hands-on artsy activities for the kids, and the City of Dayton’s closing fireworks display. "Room With a View" passes for a preferred-seating area will be available ($30 for a single day, $75 for the weekend, an all-festival pass for eight costs $250).
Executive director Kathleen Alter said she doesn’t know if Montgomery County’s best-attended outdoor summer weekend will return in 2012. How the public will respond to an admission fee is unknown, but there was little choice after longtime corporate funding dried up.
Music remains the heart of the event.
Performers will include the 2010 Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, Sierra Hull and the Highway 111 bluegrass band, Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, Chicago’s Funkadesi, Big Sam’s Funky Nation from New Orleans, the traditional Irish band Bua, guitar "slinger" Junior Brown, and El Salvador’s Los Hermanos Lovo.
The festival also will feature some of the Midwest’s best musical instrument manufacturers and repairmen.
The details: July 1-3; Riverscape Metropark, downtown Dayton (Montgomery County); admission: $5 suggested donation, premium passes available; 937-223-3655, cityfolk.org/festival
Other noteworthy festivals:
Taste of Cincinnati: May 28-30, the nation’s longest-running culinary-arts festival; downtown Cincinnati (Hamilton County); free; 513-579-3197, tasteofcincinnati.com.
Cincinnati Fringe Festival: May 31 through June 11, the eighth annual showcase of experimental performance, film and art; the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood (Hamilton County), with all venues within walking distance; admission: $200 for a full-festival pass, $60 for a six-show package, single-show tickets available; cincyfringe.com or call the founding Know Theatre Company, 513-300-5669.
Summerfair: June 3-5, a fine-arts fair with more than 300 artists and craftspeople, regional performers, "gourmet arts" and a Youth Rocks! area; Coney Island, Cincinnati (Hamilton County); $10, or free for children 12 and younger; 513-531-0050, summerfair.org.
Troy Strawberry Festival: June 4-5, food, entertainment, arts, crafts, competitions, and all things strawberry; downtown Troy (Miami County); free; 937-339-7714, gostrawberries.com.
Springfield Summer Arts Festival: June 16 through July 16, music, theater, dance and other performances; Turner Pavilion, Veteran’s Park Amphitheater, Springfield (Clark County); free, donations accepted; take a chair or blanket, or rent one; reserved seats cost $10 to $15; 937-324-2712, 1-866-324-2712 or springfieldartscouncil.org.
Ninth Annual MidFirst Ohio Challenge: July 15-17, hot-air balloon races; professional skydivers; music; a classic car show; arts and crafts; food; balloon, airplane and helicopter rides; Smith Park, downtown Middletown (Butler County); free to $3; 513-705-1770, ohiochallenge.com.
Dayton Celtic Festival: July 29-31, 10th annual event with bands, dancing, food, merchandise from the British Isles, Celtic breakfast and Gaelic Mass; RiverScape MetroPark, Dayton ( Montgomery); 937-372-9788, unitedirishofdayton.org/Festival.
Roy Rogers Festival: Aug. 3-6, marking the centennial of the TV cowboy’s birth; Holiday Inn, Portsmouth (Scioto County); $5; 740-353-0900, royrogersfestival.org.
Ohio Tobacco Festival: Aug. 25-28, also home to the Ohio Tobacco Museum; Ripley (Brown County); free; 937-373-3651, facebook.com/OhioTobaccoFestival
Portsmouth River Days: Sept. 1-5, free nightly entertainment, car racing, parade, queen’s pageant, fireworks and car show; Portsmouth (Scioto County); 740-357-5059, portsmouthriverdays.org.
22nd annual Ohio Renaissance Festival: weekends Sept. 3 through Oct. 16, re-creation of a 16th-century English village with shows on 11 stages, shops, food, drink, games, rides and costumed characters; Rt. 73, Harveysburg (Warren County); $19.99, or $9.99 for children 5-12; 513-897-7000, renfestival.com.