Shakespeare's Prince Henry might find us rather dull. He declared: "If all the year were playing holidays/ To sport would be as tedious as to work...."
With more than 50,000 festivals of dance, music, theater, the visual arts, and more in the United States and Canada, all the year is a playing holiday (see roundup on pages 16 and 17). If all this fun leads to tedium, well, let us be bored.
One Web site (www.festivals.com) lists 33,000-plus events happening around the globe. And the "Guinness Book of World Records"-size figures don't stop there.
Festivals attract from 5,000 to 8 million visitors apiece, says Scott Nagel, vice president of International Festivals & Events Association (IFEA) in Port Angeles, Wash. The estimated economic impact of IFEA events alone (its 3,000 members generating 12,000 to 15,000 festivals a year) was $15 billion in 1998.
Twenty-five years ago, festivals weren't all that common, but now there's always an event going on, Mr. Nagel says. Some 31 million American adults attend festivals each year, according to the Travel Poll released last July by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA). Of those, 33 percent will attend an arts or music festival, and 22 percent will visit an ethnic, folk, or heritage event. And TIA's numbers include only those adults on road trips. They don't include local attendance.
What's behind these staggering sums? Festivals are steam valves. "Society needs to let go every once in a while ... to downplay the role of conflict, the struggle and tension within society," says Frank Korom, assistant professor of religion and anthropology at Boston University. Mardi Gras, for example, allows a "society to release steam."
Festivals today are usually secular, though they hark back to superstitious origins in the days of cave dwellers, as well as religious practices in ancient Hebrew times. Once "science takes over from religion," as it did in the Enlightenment (18th century), "carnival ceased to be a religious ritual and became secularized in a form of social release and catharsis," Dr. Korom says.
This transition means ritual "gets transformed into modes of drama [and] theater," he adds.
There are dramas occurring offstage as well.
Festivals bring communities together, they let people socialize. When events grow to gargantuan proportions, as Mardi Gras has, a community can't get reacquainted. So festivals are "more efficient on the local level, like small-town America," says Korom, where folks will be participants and not just observers.
Public events are also a way people reassert their ethnicity, says Korom, who points to Scandinavian festivals in the Midwest as one such example. This function "flies in the face of old ... theories about America being a melting pot," he says. However, he calls large events like Fourth of July celebrations, a "form of national bonding."
So large or small in scale, the "playing holidays" that "they wish'd for come" are here in plenty, Prince Henry. Go to.
FAIRBANKS SUMMER ARTS FESTIVAL
July 21-Aug. 6
A unique festival for concert- and theatergoers interested in jazz, contemporary and classical music, dance, opera. It's also an event that encourages participants to take classes in numerous disciplines, from ballet to the visual arts, ice skating, and stage combat.
CARMEL BACH FESTIVAL
July 15-Aug. 6
This Bach celebration runs through some of his famous repertoire, including the 'St. John Passion.' A few nights offer music of other greats like Mozart.
SUMMERFEST LA JOLLA 2000
57 musicians play classical greats. Plus, there are pre-concert talks and post-concert receptions.
ASPEN MUSIC FESTIVAL AND SCHOOL
June 21-Aug. 20
Concerts (Bach to Berlioz), operas (Stravinsky, Casken, Puccini), workshops, family events. A 'New Beginnings' theme highlights groundbreaking moments in 400 years of music.
New Haven, Stamford,
and New London
2000 INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS & IDEAS
June 16-July 1
500 events. 2,000 performers. Only five years old, this festival offers much, even opera and roundtable discussions on war and teen safety. Some big appearances: Wynton Marsalis; the Royal Shakespeare Company; Buena Vista Social Club member Barbarito Torres.
SMOOTH JAZZ FESTIVAL
Performers will include guitarist Norman Brown and saxophonists Eric Marienthal and Richard Elliot.
District of Columbia
SMITHSONIAN FOLKLIFE FESTIVAL
June 23-27 and June 30-July 4
The 34th year of this festival features D.C., El Ro, and Tibetan culture.
GRANT PARK MUSIC FESTIVAL
June 17-Aug. 19
Big voices and celebrity talent, like soprano Kathleen Battle, and works by greats like Rossini are part of this 40-concert event first held in 1935.
FIREFLY FESTIVAL 2000
June 17-Aug. 5
The Temptations kick off the music fest. Other events include country band Asleep at the Wheel and the musical 'Forever Plaid.'
COLUMBIA FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS
Marcel Marceau on his final US tour and guitarist Christopher Parkening are just two of many highlights.
JACOB'S PILLOW DANCE FESTIVAL
June 21-Aug. 27
Ten weeks of dance, from flamenco to ballet, with dancers from around the globe. Performers include members of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Royal Swedish Ballet.
BOSTON GLOBE JAZZ AND BLUES FESTIVAL
This festival has lots of finger-snappin' music. Ray Charles and the Brian Setzer Orchestra are just two of the snazzy musicmakers to take the stage.
ANN ARBOR SUMMER FESTIVAL
June 17-July 8
Michael Feinstein opens the season singing Gershwin favorites. Others appearing: political satirists The Capitol Steps and a jazz-tap ensemble.
MONTREAL JAZZ FESTIVAL
June 29-July 8
Blues, jazz, a July 4 concert by Sting, Ray Charles on July 6. 100 concerts come with a fee, 300 are free.
NEW HAMPSHIRE MUSIC FESTIVAL
July 7-Aug. 18
In the heavy humidity of summer, this festival begins with light classics. It also has stirring, weightier masterpieces, such as Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 played by Eduardus Halim, trained by Vladimir Horowitz.
NEW JERSEY SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL
Through Dec. 17
The lineup includes plays by the great Bard and other classic playwrights ('Rhinoceros,' by Eugene Ionesco).
New York City
LINCOLN CENTER FESTIVAL 2000
Operas, plays, dance, music - it's all here. The center's fifth festival is host to the US premire of the opera 'Writing to Vermeer,' by Louis Andriessen and Peter Greenaway.
MOSTLY MOZART FESTIVAL
July 31-Aug. 26
The 34th season of the Mostly Mozart Festival features returning favorites such as violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Andr Watts. Mozart shares the spotlight with Beethoven, Stravinsky, and Vivaldi.
AN APPALACHIAN SUMMER FESTIVAL
Appalachian State University's campus is the stage for the 16th music-dance-theater-visual-arts fest. Highlights include the Paul Taylor Dance Company, Arlo Guthrie, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
EIGHTH ANNUAL WOMEN'S PLAYWRITING FESTIVAL
Through June 18
Each year, the Perishable Theatre holds a playwriting contest for women and the winning entries are produced. This year's winners focus on modern-day marriage, a tale of love and loss, and a Latina woman's growth as a writer. Entries for next year are due by Dec. 15.
CONCERTS IN THE GARDEN
Through July 4
12 of 18 concerts are jazzed up with fireworks. Concerts run a fun gamut of themes and famous titles: 'Pops Goes to the Oscars,' 'Zydeco Street Dance,' '1812 Overture,' 'Peter and the Wolf.'
International dance and music take center stage at the World Music Arts & Dance festival started by singer/songwriter Peter Gabriel in 1980. Performers mingle with the crowds and give lectures.
More than 3,000 volunteers put together this event celebrating German culture. There are activities for children, too.
GRAND TETON MUSIC FESTIVAL
July 4-Aug. 26
Set near Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, this festival offers classical music (Saint-Saens, Ravel, Liszt), and chamber, organ, and family concerts.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society