United States

The Best Festivals and Fairs in Ohio

by Paul Joseph  |  Published February 28, 2019

Stretching from the Ohio River and Appalachian Mountains in the south to Lake Erie in the north, the Midwestern US state of Ohio is the place to go for a taste of authentic, rough-edged America. From the beaches of Lake Erie, to the large urban centres of Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, to the world’s largest Amish enclave, the state is also positively bursting with natural beauty, city attractions and a fascinating cultural heritage.

A sailing boat drifts past the famous Lorain Lighthouse in Ohio (Photo: Rona Proudfoot via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

There are a huge number of festivals and fairs that take place across Ohio each year, many of which celebrate particular social or cultural characteristics of the region. If you’re planning a trip to Ohio before the end of 2019, we’ve picked out the best festivals and fairs being held throughout the state before the year is out.

Cleveland Kurentovanje Winter Festival 

To usher in Spring each year, Cleveland’s large Slovenian community hosts a multi-day celebration at venues across the city’s St. Clair-Superior neighbourhood. Founded in 2013 to mirror Slovenia’s annual folk festival, the event celebrate the rich history and culture of the Eastern European nation. Among the highlights are a sumptuous dinner curated by Slovenian chefs, an interactive exhibit at the city’s Slovenian Museum and Archives, Slovenian craft-making, and a 5k run. The occasion culminates in a day-long Parade and Festival complete with costumes, ethnic food and drink, live performances, and costumed Kurents – tall, furry creatures sporting carnival masks, sheepskin hats and cowbells tied around their waist.

LOCATION St. Clair–Superior, Cleveland DATES 24 February-2 March 2019

Traditionally attired participants at the Cleveland Kurentovanje Winter Festival (Photo: Andy Wrobel Photography )

Acoustics for Autism

Every year on the first Sunday in March, something special happens at The Village Idiot pizzeria in the city of Maumee in Lucas County. Acoustics for Autism is one of the largest free music events in the country with 100% of the proceeds going directly to local families affected by autism. Project iAm is an entirely volunteer based charity that started Acoustics for Autism in 2008, and since then it has grown from 17 acts on one stage to 68 entertainers across 7 stages. All proceeds are given to families in the Northwest Ohio area directly for their child’s ASD needs so they can find the treatment resources they feel work best for their children.

LOCATION In & around The Village Idiot bar, Maumee DATES 3 March 2019 

A thumping performance during the Acoustics for Autism music festival (Photo: Project iAm)

Cincinnati International Wine Festival

If you’re not tempted by a weekend of wine and food in the name of charity, then what can we say? One of America’s biggest and best wine events, the festival features wine personalities from across the world, top chefs from local restaurants, and – crucially – more than 700 wines from over 200 wineries. Samples are in ample supply, and there’s a chance to meet wine producers, hear their stories and learn all about the art of wine making. Guests can enjoy meals by-the-bite served with wine pairings and there’s also a silent auction, with rare and highly sought-after wines up for grabs. If that’s not convinced you, half of every ticket sale price goes to support 35 local charities.

LOCATION Duke Energy Convention Center Grand Ballrooms, Cincinnati DATES 8-9 March 2019 

A reveller with glass in hand at the Cincinnati International Wine Festival (Photo: Cincinnati International Wine Festival)

Ohioana Book Festival

Bookish types in Ohio this April should head to the state capital of Columbus where the annual Ohioana Book Festival will take place. Offering literary lovers the chance to connect and engage with some of the region’s most acclaimed writers, the event has grown to become a major landmark on Ohio’s cultural calendar since its inaugural edition in 2007. A total of around 100 authors will be in attendance and entry is free to all, with no registration required.

LOCATION Columbus Metropolitan Public Library’s Main Library, Columbus DATES 27 April 2019 

Appalachian Festival

Held along the scenic Ohio River at historic Coney Island, this is one of springtime’s most popular family events. A Mother’s Day Weekend tradition that’s celebrating its 50th year of bringing Appalachian culture to life, during the festival Coney Island is transformed into an authentic mountain-life village, celebrating the area’s rich Appalachian heritage. There’s traditional Appalachian music, handmade crafts, storytelling, dancing, educational exhibits, mouthwatering food, and much more. Proceeds go toward grants for organisations and individual artists involved in promoting Appalachian culture.

LOCATION Coney Island, Cincinnati DATES 10-12 May 2019 

A traditionally attired participant at the Appalachian Festival (Photo: Appalachian Festival)

Willard Middle School Revolutionary War Reenactment and Encampment

Each year, eighth-grade students at Willard Middle School put on a dramatic reenactment of the Revolutionary War, the war that led to American Independence. Kitted out in period clothing, participants recreate battle scenes, demonstrate the daily life of minutemen and colonial citizens, and put on craft displays in front of captivated audiences. There are also activities from the era, including tin punching, paper making, land surveying, military drilling, hearth kettle cooking, food preservation, knitting, pottery, spinning and more.

LOCATION Willard High School DATES 10-11 May 2019 

A scene at the Willard Middle School Revolutionary War Reenactment and Encampment (Photo: Willard Middle School Revolutionary War Reenactment and Encampment)

A World A’Fair

Now in our 45th year, Ohio’s largest international festival and the Dayton Convention Center’s largest single event maintains two full-time stages with local and invited dance and music performers. There are 34 booths from around the world, each presenting a cultural display with 2019’s theme of “best kept secret”. Most of the booths sell food, beverages (including alcohol) and merchandise that is representative of their country or culture. In short, it’s a wonderful event for the entire family.

LOCATION Dayton Convention Center, Dayton DATES 17-19 May 2019 

A stage performance at A World A’Fair (Photo: Scott Stolsenberg)

Berea’s National Rib Cook-Off

Taking place over the Memorial Day Holiday Weekend, the 21st Annual Berea’s National Rib Cook-Off is the only way to kick-off the summer fun in Cleveland. Other Memorial Day Festivals have come and gone, yet this one is still going strong after more than two decades. Produced by the Berea City Club, the event is the club’s largest event each year, with much of the money raised going back into the community). More than 12 Rib Teams descend on the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds to compete for Best Ribs, Best Sauce and People’s Choice. A family-friendly occasion, there’s also free musical entertainment all weekend long. There’s free on-site parking and children 12 and under go free.

LOCATION Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds, Berea DATES 24-27 May 2019

A chef cooking up smoky delights at Berea’s National Rib Cook-Off (Photo: Berea’s National Rib Cook-Off)

Oxford Wine & Craft Beer Festival

Wine and art go together like a horse and carriage and each year the southwest Ohio town of Oxford plays host to purveyors of both of these cultural delights. Hosted by the Oxford Chamber of Commerce, thousands of discerning wine and art lovers come to peruse wine booths and art vendors lining the quaint streets of this charming college town. There’s also oodles of craft beer and food stalls, along with cooking demonstrations and live music to keep visitors entertained. The revelry continues into the evening, with more music in local haunts, plus a “Toast the Town” celebration. Proceeds from the event go to the Oxford Chamber of Commerce scholarship fund.

LOCATION Oxford, Butler County DATES 1 June 2019

Bath Art Festival

Held over one full day, Bath Art Festival features a diverse variety of vendors including fine artists, jewellers, potters, woodworkers, glass artists, soap and lotion makers, along with a variety of fine craft artists. Visitors can shop for gifts and souvenirs, listen to live entertainment and enjoy lunch or a snack courtesy of several on-site food and drink stalls. The event offers free admission and free on-site parking, and the show will go on come rain or shine.

LOCATION Bath Community Park, Akron DATES 2 June 2019

A stall-holder displays their wares at Bath Art Festival (Photo: Nancy Balluck Photography)

Ohio Civil War Show

It takes skill and sensitivity to tackle issues surrounding the American Civil War and this 2-day annual event – which is now in its 42nd year – does so with great success, finding the right balance between entertainment and education. Taking place across the wide expansive of the Richland County Fairgrounds, the show features an artillery demonstration including cannon firings, military vehicles, historical re-enactments and live music showcasing resonant war-time tunes.

LOCATION Richland County Fairgrounds, Mansfield DATES 4-5 May 2019

A dramatic re-enactment during the Ohio Civil War Show (Photo: Ohio Civil War Show)

BAYarts Art & Music Festival

A thriving cultural destination that has been likened to the Chautauqua Institute in New York, BAYarts is one of the jewels in Cleveland’s crown. As well as offering a diverse programme of gallery exhibitions and classes for kids and adults, the venue also plays host to numerous festivals throughout the year. Among the most popular is the BAYarts Art & Music Festival, featuring more than 70 vendors across various mediums and art forms, including jewellery, ceramics, art, home decor and bath/beauty. There are also numerous food trucks and live music by Rey Cintron’s Rice & Beans band. Attendance is free.

LOCATION Bay Village, Cleveland DATES 15 June 2019

BAYarts festival-goers amble through the venue grounds (Photo: BAYarts Art & Music Festival)

Blue Tip Festival

The Blue Tip Festival is a five day celebration of the Wadsworth, Ohio community. It starts with a world class parade and the lighting of a giant, twenty-foot blue tip match which lights downtown Wadsworth during the festival’s duration. The festival then offers attendees their choice of amusement rides, food and drink, midway games, contests, and other entertainment.

LOCATION Memorial Park, Wadsworth DATES 18 June 2019

Ohio Viking Festival

Taking place within a bustling trading village, this action-packed festival features a huge range of activities, events and great food for all the family. Held over two days, there are hand-crafted wares to peruse and purchase, plus seminars and re-enactments on what life was like during the Viking era all those years ago. Other highlights include shield painting classes for both kids and adults.

LOCATION Trumbull County Fairgrounds, Cortland DATES 21-23 June 2019

Ohio Wings & Beer Festival

The Ohio Wings and Beer Festival is bringing together the best wings & local craft beer from across the state. Sample craft beer from the best Ohio breweries including Wolfs’ Ridge and Rhinegeist. Oh, and did we mention wings?! They’ve assembled an all-star roster of wing pros like Pecan Penny’s and Red Door BBQ. Kick back with a wing and beer, and take part in a new classic.

LOCATION Ohio Expo Center & State Fair, Columbus DATES 22 June 2019

Mouth-watering wings at the Ohio Wings & Beer Festival (Photo: Ohio Wings & Beer Festival)

Huron Rotary Fine Art and Food Festival

Art, food, and music take centre stage at this popular annual festival hosted by the Huron Rotary Club. A diverse mix of artists display their work, with many artists donating fine art to be raffled off to lucky ticket holders on the Sunday. As for the food, a diverse mix of gourmet food trucks welcome hungry visitors, each offering their own specialised choice of cuisine. Music , meanwhile, is centred on the boat basin amphitheatre which plays host to talented local musicians. The event has a strong philanthropic focus too, with every dollar raised going to support local college scholarships and other Rotary programs.

LOCATION Huron Boat Basin, Huron DATES 28-29 June 2019

A visitor peruses a jewellery stall at the Huron Rotary Fine Art and Food Festival (Photo: Huron Rotary Fine Art and Food Festival)

Waterloo Arts Fest

The 17th Annual Waterloo Arts Fest is held over one day from 12pm to 7pm and features more than 40 eclectic local bands playing a great mix of music, local handmade art vendors, mouth-watering food trucks, and an exciting mix of innovative and interactive art experiences for all ages. At the Waterloo Arts Fest, you can roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty and give art a try. For more information go to www.waterlooarts.org/fest

LOCATION Waterloo Arts and Entertainment District, Cleveland DATES 29 June 2019

Visitors to the Waterloo Arts Fest get their creative juices flowing (Photo: Waterloo Arts Fest)

Cincinnati Music Festival

First held way back in 1962, this music festival has gone from strength to strength, evolving into a spectacular two-day event on Cincinnati’s riverfront, and drawing more than 50,000 people annually from across America. Starting out as an all-jazz concert, it now features diverse music from some of the biggest stars in R&B, jazz, soul, and hip-hop, as well as up and coming artists. Past performers have included such luminaries as Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder and many others.

LOCATION Cincinnati Riverfront DATES 25-27 July 2019 

A singer in full flow at the Cincinnati Music Festival (Photo: Cincinnati Music Festival)

Cleveland Oktoberfest

Cleveland’s contribution to the global German phenomenon of Oktoberfests takes place each year on Labor Day weekend, and features the very best in Bavarian culture and heritage. There’s polka dancing, live music, arts and crafts, lashings of beer, wine and liquor, plus traditional German sausages and time-honoured beer brewing demonstrations. Proceeds from the festival go to local causes.

LOCATION Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds, Middleburg Heights DATES 30 August-2 September 2019 

Polka musicians at Cleveland Oktoberfest (Photo: Cleveland Oktoberfest)

Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival

Ohio’s freshwater shrimp harvest never fails to generate an impressive yield, and this festival celebrates the annual occasion by offering an array of delicious seafood selections, along with live music, multiple vendors, and games and activities for all the family. There are also fascinating displays of fish, frogs, turtles and other native critters, while a fish farm market give you the chance to take dinner home with you too. Other highlights include a trout feeding demos and a sturgeon pool.

LOCATION Freshwater Farms of Ohio, Urbana DATES 20-22 September 2019 

A bird’s-eye view of the Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival (Photo: Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival)

Champaign County Balloon Fest

Join friends, family and neighbours for the 2019 edition of the Champaign County’s Balloon Fest. Held over two full days, guests will be treated to food, family fun activities, music and hot air balloon launches. Weather depending, the balloons will ‘glow’ at dusk each day, creating a spectacular display of light and colour that can be witnessed for miles around.

LOCATION Historic Grimes Field, Urbana DATES 4-5 October 2019 

Art and Jewish Food Festival

At the heart of Akron’s large Jewish community is Temple Israel, and each year the vibrant reform temple plays host to a festival that showcases Jewish food at its authentic best. Among the traditional dishes on offer are brisket, kugel, latkes, chopped liver, matzo ball soup, hummus, kuchen, mandel bread and rugelach. Visitors can also peruse the wares of 30 talented local artisans, and there’s a variety of kids’ activities too.

LOCATION Temple Israel, Akron DATES 3 November 2019 

Delicious looking goods being prepared for the Art and Jewish Food Festival (Photo: Art and Jewish Food Festival)

Cincinnati Coffee Festival

Home brewing enthusiasts, coffee aficionados, and anyone who simply loves a good cup of coffee come together for this celebration of the sacred bean. A truly regional affair, visitors descend from far and wide to sample free coffee tastings, along with mouth-watering pastries and other delectable treats. Among the exhibitors will be world-class roasters, coffee shops, purveyors of fine foods, and professional baristas, while interactive demos will showcase the latest in coffee equipment and coffee-making techniques.

LOCATION Duke Energy Convention Center Ballroom, Cincinnati DATES 8-10 November 2019 

Stall-holders at the Cincinnati Coffee Festival (Photo: Cincinnati Coffee Festival)

Hudson Christkindlmarkt

Celebrating the relationship between Hudson and its German sister city, Landsberg en Lech, this holiday market held its first ever edition in 2018 and proved an instant hit with locals and visitors alike. Oozing Old World ambiance, there’s live musical entertainment, craft and Christmas vendors, a melodic choir, and various Germanic-themed foodie treats, while vendors from Landsberg en Lech also make the trip. Look out for the big man in red, too.

LOCATION Hudson Green, Hudson DATES 13-15 December 2019