Each season, Frommer's scours the planet for the festivals and events we find unique, compelling and chock full o' fun. Summer brings a plethora of activities and celebrations that can inspire you to travel and join in. The warmth of summer brings longer days and the sun shining over the northern hemisphere. It's the perfect season to take that well-earned vacation, find a lounge chair on a remote beach somewhere and soak up the rays. Where better to start than in the Bahamas?
19th Annual Eleuthera Pineapple Festival, Bahamas (June 5 to 9, 2005)
Each year, the people of the island of Eleuthera pay homage to that thorny fruit that is sweet and succulent with a bit of a kick. Eleuthera is home to many pineapple plantations and the fruit symbolizes hospitality to Bahamians. Traditionally when sailors returned from being at sea, they would place a pineapple on their gateposts to welcome visitors. The annual festival takes place in Gregory Town where a giant pineapple takes center stage. Drag yourself away from the beach for a while for the pineapple-eating contest, marching bands, fire dancing, the Pineapple Princess pageants, a Bahamian street carnival, tours of plantations, bizarre sporting events and the plaiting of the pineapple pole.
For more information, visit www.bahamas.com/bahamas/index.aspx.
Dragon Boat Festival (Tuen Ng) and Races, Hong Kong (June 11, 2005)
The festival may go back 2,000 years, but the dragon boat races (at least in their current form) were first held only 30 years ago. With the magnificent Hong Kong skyline as a backdrop, this exciting day features up to 100 competitors from all over the world, trying to paddle their way to glorious victory as hundreds of thousands of onlookers cheer them on.
The teams of 20 to 22 paddlers race ornatel, 30-foot long boats carved t o look like dragons coursing across the water. The sound of the beating of traditional drums adds to the intensity of the competition that often sees competitors end up in the water rather than at the finish line. Historically, boat races took place on this day but in a far less dignified and controlled setting. Crowds used to throw stones at rivals' boats and it was considered good luck if a participant drowned. The modern-day races feature local and international competitions as well as the celebrated bathtub race.
Traditionally the Tuen Ng festival commemorates the death of a popular Chinese national hero, Qu Yuan, who drowned himself during the 3rd century B.C. According to legend, the locals, while trying to rescue him, beat drums to scare fish away and threw dumplings into the sea to keep the fish from eating him. During the festival period, Chinese people eat rice dumplings and go swimming in Qu Yuan's honor. As the dragon is the god of the sea, it is only fitting that the Dragon Boat races take place on this day. June in Hong Kong can be pretty steamy, so you may also want to take a dip to cool off.
For more information visit www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/heritage/festivals/he_fest_drag.jhtml.
Heiva i Tahiti Festival, Papeete, Tahiti (June 17 to July 16, 2005)
The biggest event on the Tahitian social and cultural calendar is this month-long celebration, which includes as its highlights the Mr. and Miss Tahiti competitions. The artist Paul Gaugin was mesmerized by the beauty of Tahitian women. They became his muses and his eventual downfall. The Tahitian women of today are no less alluring and this is the perfect opportunity to see some of the most beautiful women (and men) in the world show off their charms as well as some athletic attributes. This year marks the 123rd Heiva festival.
Celebrations include the welcoming of visitors with hibiscus garlands and tiare flowers, street parades, traditional dance (including a male warrior dance similar to the Maori Haka), Polynesian sporting competitions, and locals adorned in fanciful costumes. Costumes feature roots, seeds, nuts, flowers and feathers as decoration as well as ornate headdresses.
Unlike other beauty contests, entrants in the Mr. and Miss Tahiti competitions are judged not only on their looks but also on their skills and intelligence. Part of the contests involves cracking open ten coconuts in the quickest time, and the Mr. Tahiti competition includes the ancient Polynesian task of palm tree-climbing. The most difficult challenge is the lifting of massive stones, often weighing up to 300 pounds. Most festivities take place in and around To'ata Square in central Papeete.
For more information visit www.tahiti-tourisme.com.
Palio; Siena, Italy (July 2, 2005)
Everyone should experience the famed Palio of Siena at least once in his or her lifetime. Or at least that's what my father said to me when I was 11 years old as we stood in the Piazza Del Campo in 100°F heat with more than 200,00 other onlookers packed in like sardines. Where else can you see all the pomp and pageantry of medieval Italy come alive or where horses are blessed by priests in their local churches. The Siennese take the Palio horserace very seriously after all, despite its visual appeal, it is a matter of communal pride where different contrade (districts) of the town compete with each other as they have for centuries and where unfortunately deaths of both horses and riders have occurred all too frequently. The term Palio refers to the banner decorated with the image of the Virgin Mary that is awarded to the ultimate victor in this often treacherous race.
Since 1310, this event has attracted visitors from all over the world. Preceding the actual horserace, which is only a few minutes long and takes place in an enclosed piazza surrounded by medieval buildings, is a tournament of magnificent flag-throwing by young men in intricate costumes. The event is free, albeit intensely crowded, but if you have local connections, you may be lucky enough to score a balcony view from one of the surrounding hotels and buildings. If you are in Sienna during the days preceding the main event, you can watch the horses practice in the main square in less trying conditions.
After the actual race, the town celebrates, especially at the local church within the district of the winning horse, where the Palio is displayed with honor. Celebrations continue throughout the night with parades, brass bands, firecrackers and dancing in the streets. Elsewhere, the bars are filled with people who are drowning their sorrows, commiserating their loss.
For more information visit www.siena.turismo.toscana.it/homeuk.html.
La Triada de Agua; Lomo Magullo, Canary Islands August 7, 2005)
Lomo Magullo, on the magnificent Canary Islands, is the location of a massive waterfight called La Triada de Agua (the fetching of the water). In the heat of the summer sun, nobody seems to mind being drenched in H2O. The festival celebrates the water needed to grow the island's crops of oranges, sugar cane and almonds. Each year, an estimated 15,000 people, locals and tourist alike, share in this tradition soaking themselves with any water they can get their hands, whilst parading through the streets.
International Beatles Week, Liverpool (August 24-30, 2005)
The city of Liverpool is infamous as the home of the fab four and you can't walk down the street in Liverpool without seeing something that honors them. International Beatle Week takes Beatlemania to a whole new level, some 35 years after the band's split. The week is also the busiest and best time to visit Liverpool, with thousands of fans from all over the world flocking into the city to celebrate the music of The Beatles. Some of the festival's highlights include 24-hours-a-day live entertainment, Beatle-themed art exhibitions, over two hundred bands in concert, markets, a Beatles convention, guest appearances, interviews, autograph sessions, tours, an auction and much more.
You can purchase tickets separately for individual events or buy a two- three- or four-day package including accommodation. Visit www.cavern-liverpool.co.ukfor more information and to make bookings.
Imilchil Marriage Feast; Imilchil, Morocco (August 26-28, 2005)
Romance is alive and well in the village of Imilchil in the Atlas Mountain region of Morocco. Each year during the harvest season, 40 couples pledge their troth as part of a tribal marriage festival. Apart from witnessing a unique ceremony with traditional costumes and music, surrounding Berber tribes congregate at the festival giving musical performances, dancing and shopping at a massive market that coincides with the wedding celebrations. It is an excellent opportunity to see the Berber lifestyle up-close.
The festival follows a legend about a couple from two different tribes who were forbidden to marry by their families (perhaps an inspiration for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet). They cried themselves to death, creating the two lakes close to Imilchil. In their honor, on the anniversary of their deaths, their remorseful families created a day on which members of the two tribes intermarry. Today Berber women are allowed to divorce and remarry so the festival is often made up of widows and divorcees seeking a new husband.
For more information visit www.tourism-in-morocco.com.
La Tomatina; Bunyol, Spain (August 31, 2005)
Last but not least, each year on a sunny afternoon in the small Spanish village of Bunyol, a throng of visitors invades this otherwise quiet locale for a unique and messy event. Some 30,000 enthusiasts join locals in what is the largest known food fight in the world -- La Tomatina.
The tomato war is ruthless and more fun that anyone deserves in a single day. Its origins are not religious or symbolic, merely it pays homage to a restaurant food fight that got out of control in 1945 and has been celebrated ever since. Vendors and shopkeepers pull down their awnings, lock their front doors and head to the streets to take part.
If you wish to participate in this free for all (it's almost impossible to be an innocent bystander), there are a few rules. You must squash your tomato before throwing it (to avoid injuries) and only tomatoes are permitted. The event only lasts for two hours at which time an immediate cease-fire is called. Almost 300,000 pounds of tomatoes are provided. Make sure that your camera is tomato-proof! Despite the sea of red that follows La Tomatina, within a few hours the town is hosed down and cleaned top to bottom.
For more information visit www.lahoya.net/tomatina/histoin.html.