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Looking Ahead Mark your calendar for these fun-filled events held across the country in March and April.
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1 San Diego
Centuries ago in Brazil, villagers would don vibrant costumes and masks, pound out sultry percussive grooves, and revel their way through town to generate good fortune, soothe uneasy spirits, and celebrate life. At the 22nd annual San Diego Brazil Carnival, the magical tradition continues with nonstop dancing; electrifying capoeira performances that combine dance, martial arts, and music; jubilant, feather-filled parades; and plenty of caipirinhas, the national cocktail of Brazil, made from a sugar-cane liquor, sugar, and lime and rumored to cure the common cold. The most spectacular Brazilian carnival show on the West Coast brings together the best and most authentic entertainment from the region’s diverse cultures, including DJs and live bands that will highlight the music of Rio, Bahia, and Recife and turn the beat around with the pulsating rhythms of samba, batucada, marcha, frevo, and carnaval electrico. Entry includes access to a full bar and high-energy dance floor, a raffle ticket to win a round-trip to Brazil, Mardi Gras–style revelry, the spectacular Rio de Janeiro Samba Show, percolating African dance and percussion troupes, and more. Don’t miss this jolt of cariocas sensuality. From $25
6 Portland, Oregon
Standing virtually alone in its vision and purpose of spotlighting female filmmakers by showcasing their work and strengthening the community of women in film, POWFest—Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival—launches its seventh annual event at the Hollywood Theatre with a variety of special screenings, workshops, and Q-and-As. At press time, this year’s Guest of Honor and recipient of the POW Pioneer Award had not yet been announced, but past years have shone a loving light on directors Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), Penelope Spheeris (Wayne’s World), Allison Anders (Gas Food Lodging), Amy Heckerling (Clueless), and Gillian Armstrong (Oscar and Lucinda). This year’s slate of films includes the opening night feature Redemption Trail, a contemporary Western about two imperfect women, one white, one black; A Self-Made Man, a documentary about the life and work of transgender youth advocate Tony Ferraiolo; and Gideon’s Army, a potent doc about three young public defenders in the Deep South. One highlight of the three-day event is POWGirls, which pairs local high school students with pro filmmakers on a breakneck 48-hour film production project. From $8
6 Grand Rapids, Michigan
“Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh,” said George Bernard Shaw. Nevertheless, a quarter-century after her untimely passing at 42, Gilda Radner, the legendary Michigan native, comedienne, actress, and Saturday Night Live vet, continues to inspire joy, levity, and laughter courtesy of Gilda’s LaughFest. The 4-year-old festival is a hotbed of hilarity, featuring more than 200 free and ticketed comedy shows in some 40 venues throughout downtown Grand Rapids. A collision of stand-up, sketch comedy, improvisation, and yuk-filled films, this year’s 10-day LaughFest boasts headlining gigs by Jay Leno, Chris Tucker, and Lily Tomlin, raising awareness and funds for Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, an organization providing free emotional health care to those stricken with cancer. Best-selling author and comedian Jim Gaffigan, 30 Rock vet Judah Friedlander, and Comedy Central fave Nick Thune also play solo shows, while a wide range of Clean Comedy Showcases offer family-friendly guffaws for those with small fries. Isn’t it time to get your dose of the best medicine? From $7
7 New York City
For an entire clique of New York logophiles, status and self-esteem have been, since 1942, tied to whether or not they’ve been able to complete The New York Times’ heady, often byzantine crossword puzzle before draining their morning cup of joe. At the 37th annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, the world’s oldest and largest crossword event, more than 1,000 puzzlers will descend upon the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott for three days to put their gray matter to the test with eight brain-busting crosswords commissioned by The Gray Lady’s longtime puzzle editor, Will Shortz. The mustachioed enigmatologist promises a fevered international competition for a prize purse worth $5,000. Each contest has a time limit, varying from 15 to 45 minutes, with contestants earning points for accuracy and speed. The tournament launches Friday night with the Crossword Carnival, in which a dozen puzzlemakers of national renown present original competition crosswords in rapid-fire rounds. Best dig out the newspaper and start practicing now. From $30
14 Yountville, California
Celebrate the Napa Valley budbreak—the start of the wine season, when vines begin to send out shoots—with Taste of Yountville, a three-day, full-flavored celebration of spirits and delectables in this North Bay hamlet. Named for George Calvert Yount, who established Napa’s first vineyard in the 1830s, Yountville boasts four Michelin-starred restaurants, and this event provides savory bites and generous pours from the small town’s famed eateries, microbreweries, and wineries. Themed “Taste Life Here,” this year’s gourmet noshfest also features live entertainment along Yountville’s charming main thoroughfare, as well as a weekend-long art show and crafts fair, plus culinary demonstrations and garden tours. Guests who have their Taste of Yountville Passport stamped by five vendors on the town-center route during Saturday’s street fair will be entered in a drawing for swag. Free admission, tasting tickets $1 apiece
A City of Brotherly Love tradition since 1771 (five years before the Declaration of Independence was signed), the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade celebrates its 243rd anniversary in 2014. This year’s cavalcade, grand marshaled by former Eagles general manager James Murray, honors the contributions of famous Irish-Americans to our nation. The day begins at 9 a.m. with a commemorative parade Mass in Saint Patrick’s Church (located at 20th and Locust), with the three-hour procession following at 1 p.m. The parade itself, featuring 20,000-plus participants from more than 150 marching bands, dance troupes, youth groups, and Irish associations, starts at JFK Boulevard and 16th Street, moving north along Kelly Drive. Recommended viewing points are at Logan Circle and on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. Bring snacks and blankets. Free
21 San Antonio
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a maverick is “an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party,” which aptly sums up a two-day music festival that books as its headliner an influential English alt-rock band that hasn’t released a studio album in 23 years. Yes, The Psychedelic Furs—from the era of Pretty in Pink—are the big draw at the second annual Maverick Music Festival, an event that marches and moshes to the beat of its own drummer, held at La Villita Historic Arts Village in the heart of downtown. You can count on the rest of the roster—including electronic-rock duo Phantogram, New Wave popster Twin Shadow, blues singer SZA, Velvet Underground torch-carriers The Black Angels, art-jam unit Yacht, and Texas psychedelic rock pioneer Roky Erickson—to serve up the downbeat in Alamo City, driving home a pulse-quickening brew of electronica, R&B, garage rock, and more. Plus, a lineup of innovative food vendors representing the city’s diverse culinary landscape will provide good eats. Two-day passes from $79
21 New Orleans
Now in its third year, BUKU—slang derived from the French word beaucoup, meaning “much” or “many”—is a music, art, and food festival that promises to fulfill The Big Easy’s reputation for provoking and sating all five senses. Held at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, the two-day BUKU Music + Art Project is “unique, progressive, quirky, and intimate,” according to event organizers, and it showcases more than 50 musical acts and five art installations against a Mississippi River backdrop. Psychedelic alt-rock gods Flaming Lips, French house producer and DJ David Guetta, English singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding, Grammy-nominated electronic dance music innovator Kaskade, and fresh hip-hop sensation Tyler, the Creator top the musical acts. Performances take place on an array of stages, including one inside an enormous float-making warehouse, another in front of an abandoned fin de siècle power plant, and a third inside a majestic ballroom. Local food vendors will be serving up beignets, crawdads, and absinthe, among other Crescent City delectables. This event is for audiences 18 and older. Two-day passes from $170
If you’ve ever had a hankering to get up close and personal with Indiana Jones’ scruffy leather jacket from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Dorothy Gale’s blue-and-white gingham dress from The Wizard of Oz, or Marilyn Monroe’s infamous billowing subway dress from The Seven Year Itch, then Hollywood Costume: Celebrating More than 100 Years of Cinema Storytelling, making its premiere in the western United States at the Phoenix Art Museum, is the exhibit for you. A major, multimedia attraction featuring more than 75 costumes from a century of storied filmmaking, Hollywood Costume offers up outfits and ensembles from the silent movie era up to modern hits like Gladiator, Titanic, Dreamgirls, Superman: The Movie, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, until July 6. Vintage outfits will also be on hand from legendary costume designer and eight-time Oscar winner Edith Head, who once famously said, “You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” $20 for adults, $10 for children
“If you think the last four words of the National Anthem are ‘Gentlemen, start your engines,’ you might be a redneck,” jokes Jeff Foxworthy, and if so, boy, does Georgia World Congress Center have an event for you. On your mark, get set, go to the 32nd annual Atlanta International Auto Show, the Southeast’s most prominent automotive attraction, showcasing new and upcoming vehicles from most of the world’s major automotive manufacturers, including Acura, Aston Martin, Buick, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Jeep, Lamborghini, Lincoln, Toyota, and Volkswagen. More than 400 cars spread out over 400,000 square feet of exhibition space will thrill the auto-obsessed of every age group. If you’re hankering to put the pedal to the metal on the new Fiat 500 or Cadillac CTS-V, test drives are de rigueur at this five-day affair (available vehicles subject to change). But don’t come just for the jalopies; you can also grab some food and drink and get your photograph taken with Thor, Captain America, and SpongeBob SquarePants. $10 for adults, $5 for children
The largest event of its kind in the U.S., the 26th annual Houston Children’s Festival, which merited a mention in Frommer’s 300 Unmissable Events & Festivals Around the World, is a weekend that celebrates the little ones with interactivity, gentle thrills, and giddy entertainment. The city of Houston becomes ground zero for childlike revelry as costumed characters rub shoulders with Nickelodeon and Disney celebrities; five stages ignite with lively, playful performances; and more than 300 exciting, hands-on activities spark the inner child in everyone. Six family-adventure areas—with zones devoted to science, animals, the circus, arts and crafts, and more—will cover the Downtown Houston area (including City Hall, Tranquility Park, Sam Houston Park, and the Houston Public Library plaza) with exhibits, participatory games, sports, and rides. The two-day festival, which also offers plenty of kid-friendly food and drink, raises money for Child Advocates, Inc., an organization serving abused and neglected youth in the area. $10, children 3 and under free
If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool fan of London’s most eccentric gumshoe, Sherlock Holmes, then it’s only elementary, my dear Watson, that you should attend the second annual 221B Con, its name cribbed from the address of the legendary sleuth’s Baker Street flat. Held at the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center, this three-day event—the largest of its kind in the world—honors every imaginable aspect, permutation, and representation of one of the world’s most beloved and recognizable characters. (Indeed, Holmes has starred in 60 of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories and has been portrayed by 70-plus actors in more than 200 films and TV shows.) Panels include “A Most Prodigious Author: [Arthur Conan Doyle’s] Other Works,” “Women in Sherlock,” and “Birth of the Detective Novel” plus sessions on the BBC’s Sherlock and CBS’ Elementary, while a costume contest caps the event and is sure to include enough deerstalker hats to make Bambi bound quickly out of town. Celebrity guests, Q-and-A’s, and a live, onstage performance of a Holmes classic by the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company complete the more than 130-hours of programming. From $55 for a weekend pass
5 New York City
Ah, how much more peaceful—not to mention deliriously silly—would the world be if we were to solve global conflicts and border disputes with pillow fights instead of harsh sanctions and nuclear threats. Not that The Big Apple’s ninth annual International Pillow Fight in Washington Square Park is anvil-heavy with ideology; rather, it’s mostly about family-friendly, all-ages tomfoolery. Feathers will fly at 3 p.m. sharp as this year’s event looks to attract thousands of cushioned commandos in an attempt to best last fall’s Guinness World Record of 3,813 pillow-armed combatants in Chicago. (Similarly epic battles will occur on the same day in more than 100 major cities around the world.) According to Wikipedia, a useful technique in a pillow fight is to bundle the nibs, but exhaustive research hasn’t helped us better define how exactly one accomplishes this, so you’re on your own. Free
19 Portland, Oregon
Chocolate and peanut butter. Sonny and Cher. Beer and Ping-Pong. The world is full of offbeat combinations, but the 12th annual Filmed By Bike festival, taking niche cinema to a new extreme, may very well take the cake. This popular four-day event squishes together movie-making and bicycles, wheeling audiences through 45 of the best bike-themed independent short movies from around the world. Some are stunt compilations, others are animations, but the vast majority go deep inside of heretofore unexplored aspects of bike culture, as in last year’s Bare As You Dare, a documentary on the annual Portland World Naked Bike Ride, and Three-Legged Horses, a short about a pedi-cab driver’s final day on the job. Held at the historic Clinton Street Theater, one of the oldest continually operating cinemas in the country, Filmed By Bike kicks off with a raucous street party and on closing night crowns the fest’s best filmmaker with, natch, The Golden Helmet Award. $25 for a festival pass
It’s doubtful that Wordsworth was endorsing Earth Day 175 years ago, but his quill certainly swooned at Mother Nature’s many miracles, penning ode upon sonnet to her majesty. The Emerald City kicks off its own family-friendly observance of Earth Day, Arbor Day, and springtime at the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park. Opened in 2007, the OSP transformed a nine-acre industrial site into a beachside gathering space featuring dozens of original works of art made from glass, bronze, black granite, and more. Enjoy the eye-popping pieces and the stunning views of the Olympic Mountains, all while shaking your booty to eclectic local bands or devouring delicious organic eats. Guests can also celebrate The Blue Planet with hands-on environmental activities, art-making inspired by the natural world, tours that tell about the site’s history and the park’s ecology, and more. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free
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