free concerts

A fistful of festivals to head for this summer

Festivals worth planning a summer trip around

My story for CNBC this week is a round-up of festivals and events around the country that could lure you out of town. Here is a slightly edited version of that list.

Jazz in Atlanta

Credit_Matt Alexandre

The month-long Atlanta Jazz Festival is underway, with jazz concerts taking place in neighborhood parks, MARTA stations, city museums, clubs and bistros and even at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The festival caps off Memorial Day Weekend (May 25 & 26) with a free concert at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park featuring more than a two dozen noted jazz performers

Chicago’s Festival Season

Ruthie Foster, photo Ricardo Piccirillo, courtesy Chicago Blues Festival

Chicago is chock-full of festivals each summer.

There’s Lollapalooza (August 1-4), of course, but also the Chicago Blues Festival (June 7-9), Chicago SummerDance (June 27-August 24), the Windy City Smokeout (BBQ, country music and beer; July 12-14) and the Chicago Jazz Festival (August 30- Sept 1), to name just a few.

Shakespeare in the parks

The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park_ photo Tammy Shell

Around the country, Shakespeare and summer go together very well.

In New York City, The Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park season kicks off May 21 with “Much Ado About Nothing.” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis will offer “Love’s Labor Lost” in Forest Park May 31-June 23. Chicago Shakespeare in the Park brings its free (abridged) performance of “Comedy of Errors” to city parks July 18-August 19. And the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company in Boston offers free performances of Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” July 17 – August 4 on the Boston Common.

Celebrate the Grand Canyon Centennial

National Park Service photo

This year is the centennial of Arizona’s Grand Canyon being designated a national park. There are special events taking place all year long to help celebrate the milestone, but one major summer event will only take place after dark.

The Centennial Star Party  (June 22-29) is a night-sky celebration that takes advantage of the park’s dark skies and clear air and takes place on both the North Rim and the South Rim of the park. Amateur astronomers and park rangers set up telescopes nightly and offer constellation tours, lectures and free viewing tips to help spot planets, star clusters and far off galaxies in the sky. The week caps off with the Centennial Summerfest and Grand Archeology Fair on June 29.

Make Music – Even if You Can’t Carry a Tune

Courtesy Make Music Day

More than a thousand cities around the world will be celebrating Make Music Day on June 21 with free outdoor concerts, music lessons, jam sessions, “Mama Mia!” Sing-along trucks and other and music-making events.

“Mass Appeals” in many cities are musical performances all played on the same instrument, i.e. kazoos, ukuleles, guitars or accordions. “Sousapaloozas” will bring together hundreds of brass and wind musicians to play marches by John Philip Sousa. And in many cities, drum shops will set up two full drum sets out on the sidewalks and invite passersby to sit down for drum set duos.

 Flores Mexicanas by Alfredo Ramos Martinez – courtesy Missouri History Center

The Missouri Historical Society in St. Louis houses a large collection of Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh artifacts and on June 1 will open a new exhibit at the Missouri History Museum featuring photographs, historic footage and many rarely seen artifacts.

The exhibit, Flores Mexicanas: A Lindbergh Love Story, centers around the recently restored, 9-by-12-foot Flores Mexicanas painting by renowned Mexican artist Alfredo Ramos Martinez, which has been stored away for 50 years.

The Lindbergh – Mexico connection for this painting?

According to the museum:

In 1929 Mexican president Emilio Portes Gill gave the Lindberghs the Martinez masterpiece as a wedding gift. Mexico was significant to the Lindberghs as the place where their love story began. For the Mexican government, the gift was a chance to impress the daughter and son-in-law of the United States’ respected ambassador to Mexico, Dwight Morrow — Anne’s father.”

Straight to the Moon – 50th anniversary of Apollo 11

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon – NASA photo

Cities, attractions and museums everywhere are getting ready to – or have already begun to – celebrate the 50th anniversary of NASA’s July 1969 Apollo 11 mission and the first time humans walked on the Moon.

A few to set your sights on: Seattle’s Museum of Flight is hosting the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibition, Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission, featuring the Columbia command module and other artifacts, through September 2.  The Smithsonian Institution’s National Air & Space Museum has five days of Apollo 50 events and exhibits planned July 16 through July 20. At the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY, the exhibit Journey to the Moon: How Glass Got Us There, opens June 29 and runs through January 30, 2010. And there are Apollo 50 events scheduled at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center, at Space Center Houston and in many-other communities around the country that have direct or casual connections to the space program.

Jazz at Harstfield-Jackson International Airport

They don’t just have a new international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, they’ve got the 11thannual Jazz in the Atrium music series underway in the domestic terminal from 5 pm to 7 pm each night through June 1, 2012.

Here’s what’s coming up:

May 24:              Eldridge Simms Jazz Quintet
May 25:              Life Force
May 29:              Bob Miles
May 30:              Jim Pearce
May 31:              Eldridge Simms Jazz Quintet
June 1:               Teddy Adams

Not enough jazz for you? The 35th annual Atlanta Jazz Festival is taking place in venues all over town through May 28th.

Holiday treats for air travelers

Thanksgiving vintage postcard

Lines will be long, tempers will be short, but there will be some entertainment at many airports this holiday weekend.

Rockettes in green holiday outfits

On Wednesday (November 24th) four members of the world-famous Rockettes (not necessarily the Rockettes pictured above) will pose for photographs with holiday travelers at Nashville International Airport (BNA) from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the ticketing and baggage claim areas.

Rockettes vintage photo

Wednesday is also Passenger Appreciation Day at Philadelphia International Airport. Entertainment will include strolling entertainment, a PGA Tour Shop putting competition, Body Shop makeovers and skin consultations for men and women and food sampling – including the distribution of 2500 TaskyKakes in the B/C Food Court between noon and 5 p.m.

PHL TastyKakes

In Chicago, blues and jazz bands will perform at O’Hare International Airport on Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. Look for stages beyond the security checkpoints in each domestic terminal and in the Arrivals Level of International Terminal 5.  Staff from the Chicago Children’s Museum will also be on hand to host special activities in the “Kids on the Fly” play area in Terminal 2 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Kids on the fly

At Chicago Midway Airport on Wednesday, there will be live entertainment in the Baggage Claim area from 2 to 5 pm and, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., complimentary hot cocoa just past the security checkpoint. (Look for hot cocoa on Sunday as well.)

The Thanksgiving music series at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport concludes today (Wednesday) with a performance by Johnny Roquemore and the Apostles of Bluegrass from 5 to 7 pm in the Atrium.

And on Thanksgiving Day, travelers flying on Southwest Airlines will be served a complimentary adult drink!

Kid Bands return to Austin-Bergstrom Airport (AUS)

Stop by any weekday at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and chances are you’ll hear some really great local music. Austin is just chock full of great musicians (“You can’t spit without hitting a Grammy winner” is how someone once explained it to me) and the airport takes advantage of that with four post-security performance spaces and eleven live performances each week.

Next week, from Monday, July 19th through Friday, July 23rd, it’s “Kid Band Week,” with performances scheduled from 3:30 to 5:30 pm at the airport’s Asleep at the Wheel stage at Ray Benson’s Roadhouse by Gate 10.  If you’re around, you should definitely check it out.

Here’s the line-up:

Monday: The Peterson Brothers Band: blue music from brothers Glenn (13) and Alex (11).

Hide Away (By Freddie King) Live @ Momo’s

Peterson Brothers Band

Tuesday: 15-year-old bassist and vocalist Livvy Bennett.
“Bennett is a member of Aftermath, an Austin band that won the first SchoolJam USA National Teen ‘Battle of the Bands’ contest January in Anaheim, Calif.  At the event, Bennett was named “Best Bassist.”

Wednesday: The Aviators. The classic rock group is made up of six students, age ten to thirteen, from the Natural Ear Music School.

Introducing the Aviators!

The Aviators

Thursday: The Apple Trio, an all-girl string trio.

And Friday: The Fireants, the group that won “Best Teen Band” at the 2008-2009 Austin Music Awards.

Fireants “Frankenstein” Edgar Winter Cover


Tidbits for travelers: JAX getting jazzed

The 2010 Jacksonville Jazz Festival takes place Friday, May 28, through Sunday, May 30, in downtown Jacksonville, Florida.  With Patti Labelle, Tito Puente Jr., the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Buckwheat Zydeco on the line-up, it looks like it will be a fine event.

But today, May 24th, before the official festival even gets started, the Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) will be kicking off its own jazz festival with live music and visual art displays in the center courtyard of the airport.  The airport’s jazz festival continues through Sunday, May 30 with a line-up that includes local acts such as Class Act, PM Experience, Robbie Eccles, Aaron Bing, The Mike Bernos Band and Roger Glover, the “River City Music Man.”