Every weekend this month, there are festive events to draw visitors to Cincinnati.
With the convergence of six major festivals and any number of seasonal celebrations, arts premieres and museum exhibit openings, September could well be the most happening month of the year in Cincinnati. The Queen City welcomes visitors with everything from fireworks to food festivals to kick off autumn with a bang.
Summer comes to an explosive conclusion when the annual Riverfest fireworks detonate over the Ohio River on Sunday, Sept. 4. Live music and general festivities, including kids' entertainment, begin at noon on the riverfront, but it's the pyrotechnics, which lift off at precisely 9:05 p.m., that are the major draw of this final salute to summer (attendance generally hovers around 800,000 people). As always, the Rozzi Fireworks Co. provides 30 minutes of synchronized bangs and booms choreographed to the latest rock chart-toppers as well as classic hits, all simulcast on WEBN radio (102.7 FM). It all takes place on the Cincinnati riverfront, stretching from the Public Landing and the Serpentine Wall to Sawyer Point and Bicentennial Commons (as well as the Newport and Covington, Kentucky, shorelines on the opposite side of the Ohio River). Noon-10:30 p.m., free admission. For more information, call 513/686-8597 or visit www.webn.com .
Then it's time to roll out the barrel at the annual Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati celebration, that is. This Bavarian blast, set for Sept. 17-18 this year, is ranked by USA Today as the world's second-largest Oktoberfest (after No. 1 Munich). The event attracts 500,000 revelers and serves up endless edibles such as bratwurst, sauerkraut balls, sausages, potato pancakes, Limburger cheese, cream puffs, strudel and other low-cal (we wish) fare. You can then try working off those "kalorien" by yodeling or doing the polka at the various entertainment stages, or break out the kazoos and participate in the World's Largest Chicken Dance. (The dance has actually made the Guinness Book of World Records.) Performances at multiple stages include bands such as the Bavarians; the Polka Dots; Donauschwaben Schuplattler Dancers; the Alpen Echoes; Cincinnati Schnapps Band; and Franz Klaber Orchestra. The event unfolds along five blocks of Fifth Street in downtown Cincinnati. Sat. 11 a.m.-midnight (opening ceremonies 10:30 a.m.), Sun. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Free admission. Contact 513/579-3191 or www.oktoberfestzinzinnati.com .
The Midpoint Music Festival, Sept. 22-24, showcases alternative rock, alt country and other genres played by 250 independent bands from both coasts and Canada. The melange of music, which attracted 40,000 people last year, takes place in participating nightclubs in the Main Street entertainment district in downtown Cincinnati. A concurrent industry trade show runs at the Contemporary Arts Center. Thur.-Sat. 8 p.m.-1 a.m. Cost is $5 cover for one club, $10 one-day all-venue pass, $25 three-day all venue pass, $100 full delegate (includes admission to the industry conference). Contact 513/509-0772 or www.midpointmusic.com .
At the Cincinnati Celtic World Festival, Sept. 24-25, some 600 musicians, dancers and storytellers converge along the shoreline of the Ohio River for a weekend of traditional music and dance. Headliners include Teada, Frigg, Jez Lowe & The Bad Pennies, Kevin Burke, Ged Foley, Liz Knowles and Silver Arm. The Celtic confab also showcases Scottish heavy athletics, live theater courtesy of the New Gate Celtic Theatre Co., a bid and buy auction, children's improv workshop, Ceili dance on Saturday evening, and all sorts of artistic wares, not just from Ireland, but from Wales, Scotland and other Celtic lands as well. And yes, the Guinness taps will be flowing, as organizers pay tribute to the best of the Emerald Isle. Look for nibbles such as Irish stew, Scottish meat pies, Irish sausages, fish 'n' chips and Irish potato soup. The festival takes place at Coney Island Amusement Park, 6201 Kellogg Ave., in Anderson Township. Sat. noon-10 p.m., Sun. noon-7 p.m.. Tickets are $9, seniors 65 and older $8, children 5-12 $2. Active military personnel are admitted free with proper identification. A weekend pass is available for $16. Call 513/533-4822 or www.CincinnatiCelticFestival.com .
The 20/20 Festival is 20 days and 20 nights of artsy fun, taking place at dozens of different Greater Cincinnati stages, museums, galleries, clubs and parks. Before the doors close on this nonstop arts festival that stretches from Sept. 30 through Oct. 19, you'll be able to indulge - often for free or almost always at a discount if you've purchased the festival's $40 "20/20" Passport - in anything from wild performance art and hip poetry parties to sexy Latin jazz and raucous rock opera. Times and venues vary during the run of the festival. Contact 513/621-4700 or www.cincinnatiarts.com .
Located about 30 miles north of downtown Cincinnati, Middletown celebrates Middfest International Sept. 30-Oct. 2. This annual festival traditionally honors the food, music, dance and culture of a particular country, but this year, in recognition of the fest's 25th anniversary, seven nations will be the focus: India, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Norway, Chile and South Africa. Members of the Miami tribe are co-hosting and will participate in Native American activities, as well. Middfest International 2005 takes place at Donham Plaza, One City Centre Plaza, in Middletown. Fri. 5-10 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. noon-8 p.m. Cost is $5 for a weekend pass, children free. Contact 513/425-7707 or www.middfestinternational.org .
Food, wine and fun
Cincinnati and environs have tradition-filled events that draw fans of fall flowers and foliage, food, wine and ethnic heritage.
Just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, MainStrasse Village Oktoberfest, Sept. 9-11, boasts six city blocks crammed with ethnic bands, German fare such as goetta, craft vendors and more. Approximately 150,000 people attend the event annually, which features an amusement midway with rides as well as the Kinderplatz area for children's activities. MainStrasse Village, 6th and Philadelphia streets, Covington, Kentucky. Fri. 5-11 p.m., Sat. noon-11 p.m., Sun. 12-9 p.m. Free admission. Contact 859/491-0458 or www.mainstrasse.org .
The Newport Oktoberfest, also on the Kentucky side of the river, offers food, beer and continuous German music under a large tent Sept. 30-Oct. 1. Riverboat Row on the Ohio River shoreline, Newport, Kentucky. Fri. 5-11 p.m. Sat. noon-11 p.m. Sun. noon-9 p.m. Free admission. Contact 513/684-4722.
Try pit-roasted Bavarian pig, wiener schnitzel, weisswurst, tortes and schnapps at the Donauschwaben Oktoberfest, Sept. 30-Oct. 2. Enjoy music, a Saturday parade, participants in German costumes, dancing, log-sawing contests, and - at the Kinderplatz - games and rides for children. Donauschwaben Park, 4290 Dry Ridge Rd., Colerain Township. Fri. 6 p.m.-midnight, Sat. 1 p.m.-midnight, Sun. noon-8 p.m. Admission $2, children 12 and under free. Contact 513/981-0699 or www.donauschwaben.com .
At the Festival Su Casa, Sept. 10-11, don't expect tacos or the mundane Americanized dishes that you might find at the average Mexican restaurant. The fare of dozens of Central and South American countries are represented, including spinach souffle from Uruguay, tamales from Costa Rica, as well as specialties of Panama, Ecuador, Peru and more. Live entertainment includes nonstop Latin music such as salsa and mariachi, plus marionettes and Hispanic folk dance performances. St. Charles Borromeos Church, 7036 Fair Park Ave., Carthage. Sat. noon-10 p.m., Sun. noon-8 p.m. Free admission. Contact 513/761-1588.
Celebrate the culture of the Amish at an old-fashioned Quilt Auction on Sept. 17, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. On display are quilts made by Amish women (look for the quilter's name stitched discreetly into the pattern). Keim Family Market, 2621 Burnt Cabin Rd., Seaman. Free admission. Contact 937/386-9995.
Talk about your grape expectations. The annual Vinoklet Art Festival and Wine Tasting celebrates the last grape crushing of the season. Music, grilled dinners, grape-stomping competitions and crafts booths are also part of the mix Sept. 10-11. Vinoklet Winery, 11069 Colerain Ave., Colerain Township. Sat. noon-10 p.m. , Sun. noon-7 p.m. Free admission. Contact 513/385-9309 or www.vinokletwines.com .
The annual Valley Vineyards Wine Festival, Sept. 22-24, offers cheeses, homemade pies and selections of fall harvest produce, all in addition to the fall crop of wines. Valley Vineyards Winery, 2276 E. U.S. Rte. 22 and U.S. Rte. 3, Morrow. Thur.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Free admission. Contact 513/899-2485 or www.Valley-Vineyards.com .
The Ohio Renaissance Festival, Sept. 3-Oct. 23, comes complete with strolling minstrels, storytellers, magicians, singers, fire-eaters, jugglers and daring displays of swordplay. Renaissance Park, Ste. Rte. 73 (exit 38 off I-75 or exit 45 off I-71), Harveysburg. Sat.-Sun. and Labor Day, 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission $15, children 5-12 $8, under 5 free. Contact 513/897-7000 or www.renfestival.com .
The whole family can enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of autumn at the Cincinnati Flower and Farm Fest. Beginning with a preview Sept. 30 and continuing through Oct. 9, the fall celebration features scarecrows, pumpkins, a harvest wedding and all the foods of autumn, along with selected Halloween events. Coney Island Amusement Park, 6201 Kellogg Ave., Anderson Township. Sat.-Sun. noon-7 p.m. Admission $9, children $6 (includes all park rides). Contact 513/872-5194 or www.cincyflowershow.com .
A date with culture
Cincinnati's arts scene picks up steam this month, as galleries, museums, theaters and music ensembles hold premieres and special exhibits.
Opening Sept. 3 at the Contemporary Arts Center, "Gadget: Mechanics and Motion in Contemporary Art" links engineering and art. From Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks for flying machines, to the Futurist, Dadaist and Constructivist movements, the exhibit explores the historical relationship between science and fine art. Also opening on Sept. 3 is "Guy Ben-Ner: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," in which the Israeli video artist explores the relationship between parents and kids in a series of home movies. Contemporary Arts Center, 44 E. Sixth St., Cincinnati. Mon. 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Wed.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission $7.50, seniors $6.50, students $5.50, children 3-13 $4.50. Free Monday nights after 5 p.m. Contact 513/345-8400 or www.ContemporaryArtsCenter.org .
"Black Is A Color: African American Art from the Corcoran Gallery of Art" at the Taft Museum of Art Sept. 23-Nov. 20, will display paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs by African American artists such as Robert Colescott, Carrie Mae Weems and Gordon Parks. Taft Museum of Art, 316 Pike St., Cincinnati. Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 12-5 p.m. Admission $7, seniors and students $5, 18 and under free. 513/241-0343 or www.taftmuseum.com .
The Playhouse in the Park begins its fall season with "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," running Sept. 6-Oct. 7. The Tony-award winning comedy features a book by Burt Shrevelove and Larry Gelbart (creator of "Tootsie" and "M*A*S*H") and is the first Broadway musical for which Stephen Sondheim wrote both lyrics and music. The season continues with "Love, Janis," a tribute to the life and music of Janis Joplin, Sept. 29-Nov. 6 (previews begin Sept. 22). Playhouse in the Park, atop Mt. Adams, Cincinnati. Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 5 and 9 p.m., Sun. 2 and 7 p.m., Tues.-Wed. 7:30 p.m., Thur. 8 p.m. "Forum" tickets $36.50-$52.50, "Janis" tickets $38.50-$54.50. Contact 513/421-3888 or www.cincyplay.com .
The Ensemble Theatre kicks off its 2005 season with "Intimate Apparel," Sept. 7-25, a portrait of an African American woman living in New York at the turn of the 20th century. Ensemble Theatre, 1127 Vine St., Cincinnati. Wed.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. Tickets $32, full-time students and seniors $29, children 12 and under $16. Contact 513/421-3555 or www.cincyetc.com .
Thornton Wilder's "Our Town," Sept. 8-Oct. 9, is the first production Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival's 2005-2006 season. Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, 719 Race St., Cincinnati. Thur. 7:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 7:30 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. Tickets $20, seniors $18, students $16. Contact 513/381-2273 or www.cincyshakes.com .
The Cincinnati Pops season begins with "Boheme to Phantom: The Music of Puccini and Andrew Lloyd Webber," Sept. 9-11. Maestro Erich Kunzel conducts. Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Cincinnati. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Tickets $22 to $61. 513/381-3300 or www.cincinnatipops.org .
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's "Opening Week Gala Celebration" Sept. 16-17 features Paavo Jarvi conducting a program of Beethoven, including the stirring Symphony No. 9. Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Cincinnati. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m. Tickets $18.50 to $76.75. 513/381-3300 or www.cincinnatisymphony.org .
The Cincinnati Ballet presents "A Midsummer's Night Dream" Sept. 23-25. Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati. Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 2 and 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. Tickets $17-$60. 513/621-5282 or www.cincinnatiballet.com .