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Mark your calendar for these fun-filled events held across the country in July.
3 Portland, Oregon
“Every bad situation is a blues song waiting to happen,” said the late, great retro crooner Amy Winehouse. So it makes sense that the 27th annual Waterfront Blues Festival, the second-largest event of its kind in the nation, combines virtuoso musicianship and top-drawer headliners to help the record level of families currently facing hunger in the state of Oregon and in Clark County, Washington. Put on annually by the Oregon Food Bank, the 2013 event raised more than $1.3 million and gathered more than 78,000 pounds of food for the cause. This year’s slate includes sizzling sets from veteran Chicano stompers Los Lobos on July 3 and funk saxophonist Maceo Parker—who’s played with James Brown, George Clinton, and Prince—on July 5, while the next day sees performances from blue-eyed soulster Boz Scaggs, as well as Gregg Allman, one of Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest singers of all time. Over the festival’s four days, more than 100 acts will take to the four stages at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, on the west bank of the Willamette River. Plus, the family-friendly affair offers a variety of related endeavors, such as afternoon and evening blues cruises and Fourth of July fireworks.
4 Coney Island, New York
Sure, gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, but since America is the land of plenty, why not dig into competitive eating, a full-contact sport on the rise? At the annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, held at the legendary hot dog shop at Surf and Stillwell on Coney Island (where the inaugural competition took place in 1916), the world’s No. 1 competitive eater will defend his seven consecutive Fourth of July wins. Last year, Joey Chestnut, the 30-year-old, 225-pound Californian, managed to gobble down 69 dogs in just 10 minutes, a personal best, nabbing $10,000 and the event’s coveted bejeweled yellow belt. But the well-decorated hypergastronome still had room for more: In 2013 alone, Chestnut landed titles around the country by gorging on pork ribs (nearly 14 pounds in 12 minutes), shrimp cocktail (9 1/4 pounds in 8 minutes), gyros (22 1/4 in 10 minutes), and hard-boiled eggs (141 in 8 minutes) to name a few. And you thought you were King of the Buffet! Crowds of up to 50,000 gather at the festive boardwalk to watch the 24 professional contestants—who won qualifiers across the United States to be here—weigh in, take the stage, and chow down.
4 Washington, D.C.
Boasting the premiere of Mozart’s “Serenade No. 7,” the first running of England’s St. Leger Stakes horse race, and the founding of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the year 1776 offered a little something for everyone. But for those who fly the red, white, and blue, it was, of course, the dawn of a new era, and America’s 2014 Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C., celebrates the 238th anniversary of our country’s formation with a spectacular event. Featuring more than 3,000 performers, dancers, cultural organizations, floats, and military personnel from nearly two dozen states, the festive procession launches from Constitution and Seventh at 11:45 a.m. in front of a few hundred thousand spectators. With highlights like tip-top drills and patriotic tunes from the 257th Army Band, marching platoons from all branches of the U.S. armed forces, and giant, helium-filled inflatables of famous figures like Strawberry Shortcake and an all-American eagle, not to mention a stilt-walking Uncle Sam plus Abe Lincoln and George Washington look-alikes, this national tradition is one way to pledge your allegiance to the land of the free and the home of the brave.
14 Los Angeles
It may surprise you to know that the City of Angels is the birthplace of the Cobb salad, the French dip sandwich, and the ice-blended coffee drink. In other words, La-La Land is a hub of innovative cuisine, and dineLA’s biannual Restaurant Week is here again to prove it with 14 days of prix fixe meals at more than 350 eateries. Produced by the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board in conjunction with American Express, Restaurant Week plates up mouthwatering cuisine (from organic to ethnic, fusion to vegan) for Tinseltown VIPs and casual diners alike, setting tables from Venice to Hollywood, Beverly Hills to downtown. How else can you sample the modern Peruvian fare of Chef Ricardo Zarate (one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in 2011) at Mo-Chica or Thomas Keller’s artful French cuisine at Bouchon for the palatable prices of $15–$25 for lunch and $25–$45 for dinner? Reser-vations are strongly encouraged.
18 Atchison, Kansas
One of the 20th century’s most mythologized public figures, Amelia Earhart soared into public consciousness in 1937 when she disappeared over the Pacific while attempting an unprecedented flight around the world. Her hometown of Atchison, roughly one hour northwest of Kansas City, has never forgotten, and since 1997 it has hosted the fun and festive Amelia Earhart Festival. The small town on the Missouri River celebrates its most famous daughter with carnival rides, arts and crafts, children’s activities, and educational presentations. The two-day fest also offers up a jaw-dropping aerobatics show; riverfront concerts from rising country stars Randy Houser, Thomas Rhett, and Danielle Bradbery; and the favorite “Concert in the Sky” fireworks extravaganza to close out the festivities.
18 Louisville, Kentucky
Derby City may be synonymous with pony races, but that doesn’t dissuade the more than 65,000 music fans who flock there annually for the star-studded Forecastle fest, named one of the 40 must-see music festivals of the summer by Rolling Stone. Cranking the Bluegrass State’s amps up to 11 over three jam-packed days, the event features headliners like six-string hot thing Jack White—who’s uncorking his new solo album, Lazaretto—plus sizzling reunion sets from hip-hop funksters Outkast and alt-rock pioneers The Replacements. Fifty-plus other artists—including Beck, Ray LaMontagne, Spoon, and Gary Clark Jr., not to mention popular local acts Slint and Spanish Gold—round out the lineup. Staged at the 85-acre Waterfront Park on the banks of the Ohio River, Forecastle—its name cribbed from a nautical term denoting the crew’s quarters—also hits a high note with The Bourbon Lodge, where experts in America’s native spirit offer pours and serve up a host of liquor-infused delicacies. The Kentucky Landing area delivers a full-flavored cornucopia of Louis-ville culture, including offerings from area breweries, regional food trucks, and local arts and crafts vendors. Late-night gigs from big-name performers are a staple of Forecastle, so be sure to stay tuned to the festival’s website for any last-minute announcements.
In Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, the kitschy comedy-horror flick from 1978, a bundle of murderous, mutant tomatoes wreaks havoc on humanity, making grisly, comic pulp of countless unlucky earthlings before being defeated by repeated blares of an abominable song. Call the sixth annual Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival a payback of sorts. Chef Ford Fry of JCT Kitchen & Bar brings together 40 of the region’s top chefs, 16 expert mixologists, and 30-plus area farmers to slice, dice, sauté, boil, grill, and otherwise make delectable one of the world’s favorite—and, apparently, homicidal—fruits. (Yes, the tomato is in fact a fruit.) Chefs from beloved Atlanta eateries like Alma Cocina, Canoe, Local Three, Park 75, and others are paired with local farmers to craft mouthwatering morsels from heirloom, hybrid, and cherry varieties. The anticipated 1,900 guests will enjoy the inventive fare and choose their favorites. The event runs 1–5 p.m. at the Goat Farm Arts Center, and all ticket sales benefit Georgia Organics and The Giving Kitchen, two organizations serving The Big Peach’s local food movement.
25 Cooperstown, New York
With the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorating its diamond anniversary in 2014, this year’s celebration of America’s favorite pastime promises to be a sparkling affair. The four-day event combines singular opportunities to get legendary players’ autographs with a rousing induction ceremony in honor of pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, designated hitter Frank Thomas, and managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, and Joe Torre. Amidst the cornfields and rolling hills of pastoral Coopers-town, fans will have the chance to solicit signatures from Hall of Famers, go around the horn with 15-time All-Star shortstop Ozzie Smith for a once-in-a-lifetime baseball clinic on July 25 (early reservations required), catch sight of their favorite players during the Parade of Legends on July 26, and enjoy the induction ceremony itself on July 27 from the grassy lawn of the Clark Sports Center. The weekend ends with the Legends of the Game Roundtable featuring the inductees, but you might want to consider sticking around until August 2. That evening, Grammy winner Paul Simon, Latin music superstar Juan Luis Guerra, Grammy-nominated jazz guitarist (and retired Yankees great) Bernie Williams, and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra join forces for a grand-slam 75th anniversary concert.
26 Heber Springs, Arkansas
Are you more of an Edward Smith, captain of the ill-fated Titanic, or a William Kidd, Scottish mariner and privateer? No matter your seafaring style, you’ll find your stride at the 28th annual World Championship Cardboard Boat Races, 65 miles north of Little Rock in Heber Springs. Launching at 10 a.m. from Sandy Beach at Greers Ferry Lake, sea dogs will raise anchor on their vessels, hoping to travel the 500-foot course with a bone in their teeth. (That’s nautical speak for “sailing really fast.”) Don’t worry if you don’t own a yacht—these ships are made exclusively of duct tape, glue, paint, and (of course) cardboard. The top three finishers in both the youth and adult
26 Alameda, California
Well before Michael Jackson thrilled the world with his mad dance moves, moonwalking was already a thing, thanks to astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong who, with the help of Michael Collins, landed and took a history making stroll on the lunar surface in 1969. Splashdown 45 celebrates the 45th anniversary of the landmark event and takes place aboard the esteemed USS Hornet (CVS-12), the aircraft carrier where the three men were quarantined after they were fished from the Pacific Ocean. Expect an array of family-friendly exhibits, hands-on science activities, and special presentations. Among many other artifacts, moon rocks, an Apollo command module, and a Gemini boilerplate are on display, and specialized Apollo-themed tours highlight the daylong festivities on the ship turned USS Hornet Museum, the only establishment in the world devoted to the splashdown and recovery aspects of lunar flight. Pioneering space maestro Aldrin gives an insightful guest lecture and also signs copies of his 2013 book, Mission to Mars, while the estimated 3,500 guests ponder the Space Race’s most enduring accomplishment.
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