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Fun things to do in Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia

Illustration by James Gulliver Hancock

A curated list of the best upcoming events in KentuckyOhio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Kentucky

Dainty Fest & the World Championship Dainty Contest

FREE! July 27–29 Held annually in Louisville’s Schnitzelburg neighborhood, this celebration began in 1971 when George Hauck and his friend Charlie Vettiner played Dainty, a traditional German street game in which contestants launch a wooden peg with a broomstick. A Saturday evening kick-off fundraiser begins the fun, which continues through Monday with live bands, a bologna sandwich–eating contest, and the 54th annual Dainty World Championship. George Hauck Way, Louisville.

8th of August Emancipation Celebration

Week of August 8 For more than 150 years, Black communities throughout Tennessee and Kentucky have commemorated their ancestors’ emancipation from slavery on August 8 with picnics, parades, and homecomings. According to historians, these gatherings originated in Tennessee in 1863 to mark the day Andrew Johnson freed his own slaves. The longest-running celebration takes place in Paducah, serving as a celebration of emancipation and a homecoming for the region’s African Americans. A weeklong series of activities includes dances, live musical performances, an Emancipation breakfast, children’s activities, and a parade. Tickets required for some events. Various sites, Paducah.

Knott County Gingerbread Festival

FREE! September 5–7 Most people associate gingerbread with the holidays. But in southeastern Kentucky, the spicy, molasses-sweetened cookies once signaled Election Day. In the 1940s and ’50s, folks baked big batches of gingerbread for candidates and their supporters to distribute at polling places to “encourage” their neighbors to vote, a practice that continued into the ’60s. Today, this annual festival allows the community to gather for a parade, food booths, live music, a 5K run, and gingerbread baking contests. Hindman.

Bowling Green International Festival

September 28 On the last Saturday in September, thousands of people gather to celebrate Bowling Green’s diversity. Throughout the day, festivalgoers can enjoy live music and cultural performances, an international bazaar, hands-on activities, and a bounty of ethnic foods from around the globe. Tickets: $5 in advance, $10 at the door. Children 12 and under, free. Circus Square Park, Bowling Green.

Ohio

The Music Man

July 5–7, 11–14, and 17–20 There’s trouble in River City, my friends! Fast-talking con man Harold Hill hops off the train in the small Iowa town with plans to dupe the residents into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys’ band he promises to lead. But Marian Paroo, the town’s straitlaced librarian and resident piano teacher, sees through his scheme and vows to expose the truth: “Professor Hill” can’t play a note. Adults, $29. Rabbit Run Theater, Madison.

Ironman 70.3 Ohio

FREE! July 21 The ultimate endurance challenge returns to Lake Erie’s shores for the third consecutive year. Triathletes and spectators from around the world come for a 1.2-mile open-water swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile half-marathon. The free Jackson Street Pier Ironman Village welcomes the public starting July 19. Entry fee for racers, $379; $449 for relay teams. Various sites, Sandusky.

The Greater Youngstown Italian Fest

August 2–4 Bring the famiglia—and your appetites! Hosted by the Italian Heritage Foundation of Youngstown, this 3-day celebration simmers with food and fun. Cook up a batch of your grandmother’s peppers for the Italian peppers contest, sip some homemade wine, sing along to your favorite Italian songs, and savor Italian fare prepared by more than 30 restaurants and vendors. The boisterous, Friday evening morra tournament features the ancient finger-counting game once played throughout the Roman Empire. Tickets, $5. Children 12 and under, free. Federal Street, Youngstown.

Canfield Fair

August 28–September 2 Now in its 178th year, this beloved summer event doubles as Mahoning Valley’s unofficial homecoming. Spread over 350 acres, Ohio’s largest county fair—and the country’s third largest—features everything from agricultural and livestock exhibits to 4-H competitions, plus displays of antique farm equipment, draft horse demonstrations, a rooster-crowing contest, classic fair food, and carnival rides. Adults, $6–$10. Canfield Fairgrounds, Canfield.

Pennsylvania

Bethlehem Blueberry Festival

July 13–14 Bethlehem’s beautiful “farm in the city” hosts 2 days packed with everything blueberry, with pie-eating contests, baking competitions, local blueberry-infused spirits and seasonal beers, and blueberry ice cream. There are also garden tours, live music, and children’s activities. Adults, $10. Burnside Plantation, Bethlehem.

Lancaster Avenue Jazz & Arts Festival

FREE! July 20 Filled with live music, good food, and plenty of dancing, this event has been voted Metro Philly’s best festival. Performers include more than 80 musical acts—from award-winning jazz greats to local youth ensembles from Philadelphia and beyond. Kids will enjoy crafts, face painting, and bouncy castles. Saunders Park Greene, Philadelphia.

Moraine State Park Regatta

FREE! August 3–4 Calling all nature lovers! Lake Arthur’s south shore hosts one of the region’s best-loved events. Showcasing a trove of eco-recreational activities on both land and water, this 2-day celebration of the great outdoors offers a great way partake of the park’s natural beauty while enjoying activities such as archery, fly fishing, kayaking, sailing, stand-up paddleboarding, and yoga. Live music and fireworks energize the celebration, and the annual Western Pennsylvania Monarch release occurs on Sunday afternoon. Moraine State Park, Portersville.

Doylestown Arts Festival

FREE! September 7–8 At this juried event, more than 160 local and regional artists gather to showcase creations made using media that include ceramics, fiber, glass, metal, and wood. Throughout the weekend, festivalgoers will enjoy live music, arts demonstrations, and numerous hands-on crafting workshops, as well as the town’s eateries, small shops, and cultural venues. Various sites, Doylestown.

West Virginia

Mountain State Art and Craft Fair

July 4–7 For more than 60 years, the Mountain State Art and Craft Fair has honored West Virginia’s rich heritage of fine craftsmanship. Featuring 100 skilled artisans from throughout Appalachia, this 4-day juried fair preserves other Appalachian traditions through demonstrations of blacksmithing, basket weaving, and cast-iron cooking; dance performances; Appalachian storytellers; and some of the region’s best bluegrass pickers. Adults (12–54), $7. Cedar Lakes Conference Center, Ripley.

Mountaineer Brewfest

August 17 Tap into West Virginia’s finest craft beers at this vibrant riverside festival that spotlights more than 15 breweries from across the Mountain State, with an additional selection of craft beers from elsewhere available in the festival’s beer garden. Musicians and food vendors from West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle and beyond will be on hand. As always, a portion of festival proceeds will be donated to a local nonprofit. Must be 21 to attend. Early bird tickets, $35–$80 (prices increase after July 31). Designated drivers, $15. Heritage Port, Wheeling.

Gauley Season

September–October Just after Labor Day, 22 separate scheduled releases from the Summersville Dam will turn the Gauley River into a Class V rafting paradise. Whitewater enthusiasts from all over the world come to hit some of the Gauley’s Big 5 rapids like Pillow Rock, Lost Paddle, and Iron Rock. Join them if you have the skills. Gauley River National Recreation Area, southwest of Summersville.

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