Arts fests spice up summer

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Your neighbors are already charring hamburgers on their backyard grill. The kids are counting down the weeks, days, minutes until school lets out. Adolescent boys are spitting watermelon seeds at each other. It's time to fish out the swimsuits and, ugh, wear them - in public.

Among these harbingers of summer is the annual mushrooming of arts festivals across North America. Long weekends and vacations beckon you to crush into the SUV, take to the open road, and engage in the ritual of family outings.

Why not sneak a little Culture 101 in between your jaunts to the beach and theme parks? From learning to hula and belly dance at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival to getting a breathtaking glimpse of the Bard at Shakespeare & Co. in the Berkshires, there's something extraordinary for fans of all ages.

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For fun-in-the-sun, consider events like the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the Central Park Summer Stage events in New York, and the 1999 Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Ore. For more highbrow fare, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C., and the American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C., are spectacular venues. Remember to buy tickets and make travel arrangements as soon as possible.

CALIFORNIA SAN FRANCISCO SAN FRANCISCO ETHNIC DANCE FESTIVAL June 11-27. Some of the world's most eclectic dance troupes descend on the Bay Area, performing Irish, Cambodian, flamenco, and other styles. (415) 392-4400 www.worldartswest.org

CANADA MONTREAL MONTREAL INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL July 1-11. Downtown Montreal is the colorful setting for one of the world's greatest jazz parties. In its 20th year, the festival will host such biggies as Branford Marsalis, Toots Thielemans, and Paco de Lucia. (888) 515-0515 www.montrealjazzfest.com

COLORADO ASPEN MUSIC FESTIVAL June 24-Aug. 22. The chic ski resort transforms itself a classical- music powerhouse. Bernard Rands's new opera "Belladonna"- commissioned for the festival - and Mozart's "Cos Fan Tutte" will be highlights of the 50th anniversary season. (970) 925-9042 www.aspenmusic.org

TELLURIDE BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL June 17-20. Some down-home fun in the Rockies with headliners Willie Nelson, Earl Scruggs, Shawn Colvin, Ricky Scaggs, and Kentucky Thunder. (888) 783-0257 www.tvs.org

CONNECTICUT NEW HAVEN INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS AND IDEAS June 18-July 3. An eclectic mish-mash of cultural delights - from the Manhattan Transfer to the puppet group Hugo and Ines and Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company's production of "Troilus and Cressida." (888) 278-4332 www.artidea.org

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DANCE PLACE Through Aug. 22. The nation's capital plays host to an exciting lineup of dance performances. A tribute to tap and the dances of Africa are featured. (202) 269-1600 www.danceplace.org

GEORGIA ATLANTA GEORGIA SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL Through Aug. 15. One of the country's newest festivals moves into a new 510 seat auditorium with productions such as "Romeo and Juliet" and Shaw's "Saint Joan." (404) 264-0020 www.gashakespeare.org

ILLINOIS CHICAGO GRANT PARK MUSIC FESTIVAL June 19-Aug.21 The free lakefront concert series opens with Jubilant Sykes and the Grant Park Symphony. (312) 819-0614 www.grantparkmusicfestival.com

HIGHLAND PARK RAVINIA FESTIVAL Through-Sept. 6. The Chicago Symphony hosts such notables as Frederica von Stade and Yo-Yo Ma. Contemporary acts include Chris Isaak and Cowboy Junkies. (847) 266-5100 www.ravinia.org

MASSACHUSETTS THE BERKSHIRES Becket JACOB'S PILLOW June 23-Aug. 29. The lovely Berkshires are the backdrop for this acclaimed celebration of dance. Headliners include the Mark Morris Dance Group, Nina Ananiashvili, and the Bolshoi Ballet. The Sean Curran Company will premire a new work set to the music of Seamus Egan, an Irish composer. (413) 243-0745 www.jacobspillow.org

Lenox Through Oct. 17 SHAKESPEARE & CO. Tina Packer's renowned theater group, considered by many to be the country's premier Shakespearean company, performs "Richard III," "Love's Labor's Lost," and others. (413) 637-3353 www.shakespeare.org

TANGLEWOOD June 18-Sept. 5. The Northeast's most famous classical music fest is here at the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. This year's highlights include Beethoven's Symphonies Nos. 6 and 7, and appearances by Dawn Upshaw and Andr Previn. The festival bagins with the Boston Early Music Festival's staging of Cavalli's "Ercole Amante" opera. (413) 638-9470 www.tanglewood.org

BOSTON BOSTON EARLY MUSIC FESTIVAL Through June 13. Considered by many to be the definitive early music festival, the biennial BEMF showcases the 1662 Cavalli opera "Ercole Amante," performed only once since its creation. The festival's theme is "Music of the Mediterranean" and focuses on music of Southern Italy, Spain, and the Sephardic Jewish tradition. (See Tanglewood listing and a featured article in next week's Monitor.) (617) 424-7232 www.bemf.org

WILLIAMSTOWN WILLIAMSTOWN THEATER FESTIVAL June 16-Aug. 29. This year, sleepy Williamstown seems to be into Hollywood-on-vacation with Ethan Hawke starring in "Camino Real," and Gwyneth Paltrow cross-dressing again for the Bard in "As You Like It." (413) 597-3399 www.wtfestival.org

NEW MEXICO SANTA FE SANTA FE CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL July 17-Aug. 23. The Santa Fe desert and adobe architecture are a lovely setting for this first-rate celebration of Bach, Mozart, and lots in between. Pinchas Zucherman will be among distinguished guest performers. (505) 983-2075 www.santafechambermusic.org

NEW YORK NEW YORK CITY CENTRAL PARK SUMMERSTAGE June 12-Aug. 19. Most events are free and open to the public at this festival-in-the-park. Theatrical highlights include "As You Like It" and "The Marriage of Figaro." (212) 360-2777 www.summerstage.org

LINCOLN CENTER FESTIVAL '99 July 6-25. At this New York extravaganza, you can experience everything from Chinese opera and "aerial ballet," to the best in cutting-edge theater, including a production of Chekov's "Uncle Vanya." (212) 875-5030 www.lincolncenter.org/festival99

NORTH CAROLINA DURHAM AMERICAN DANCE FESTIVAL Through July 24. This year's event is brimming with a number of exciting new commissions, including a modern dance jazz-fusion piece by Bill T. Jones and Artie Zane Dance Company and two new offerings by the Paul Taylor Dance Company. A collaboration between the Pilobolous Dance Theater and famed children's author Maurice Sendak. (919) 684-6402 www.AmericanDanceFestival.org

OREGON ASHLAND OREGON SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL Through Oct. 31. This Oregon college town has become synonymous with dramatic excellence. "Henry IV, Part Two" and "Much Ado About Nothing" will be features at the festival's grand outdoor Elizabethan Theater. Other highlights include "Pericles," "The Three Musketeers," and "The Good Person of Szechuan." (541) 482-4331 www.orshakes.org

PORTLAND 1999 WATERFRONT BLUES FESTIVAL July 2-5. Tom McCall Waterfront Park is the site of this jamming regional and local blues venue. Featured acts along the Willamette River include "Queen of the Blues" Koko Taylor, Booker T and the MGs, and accordion phenom Little Malcolm. (503) 973-3378 www.waterfrontbluesfest.com

PENNSYLVANIA PITTSBURGH THREE RIVERS ARTS FESTIVAL Through June 20. Downtown Pittsburgh and neighboring Point State Park come to life with hundreds of events and its popular "Artist's Market." A wide ranging of musical talents are showcased - everything from honky-tonk to Cuban swing and Yiddish tunes of the Klezmatics. (412) 281-8723 www.artsfestival.net

RHODE ISLAND NEWPORT JVC JAZZ FESTIVAL Aug. 13-15. Highlights of this jazz extravaganza by the sea are performances by Diana Krall, Joshua Redman, and Branford Marsalis. There is also a JVC Jazz Festival New York. (401) 847-3700 www.jvc-america.com/jazz/newyork.html

WASHINGTON REDMOND WOMAD USA July 30-Aug. 1. The Seattle suburb hosts over 40 acts hailing from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Americas. Multicultural offerings include everything from folk tunes by Joan Baez to Celtic step-dancing. (206) 281-8111 www.womadusa.org

WYOMING TETON VILLAGE GRAND TETON MUSIC FESTIVAL June 29-Aug. 21. Zubin Mehta is among the distinguished guests at the 38th season of the classical music festival outside Jackson Hole. Performers include Gregory Fulkerson and John Browning. (307) 733-1128 www.gtmf.org

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