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Each season we compile a general round up of some of the better, stranger and more unique festivals and events taking place around the country. Summer in particular brings up a slew of interesting activities, from the artistic to the downright bizarre, but each with its own merits. So if you are hitting the road this summer, consider stopping by and soaking up the local culture at one or more of these calendar highlights.

Red Earth Festival, Oklahoma City OK: June 1 to 4, 2006

This annual event is the largest Native American gathering in the country. Nearly 100 tribes from all over North America are represented, coming to Oklahoma City for a weekend of celebration including dancing, traditional music, and arts.

Now in its 20th year, the Festival attracts almost 2,000 Native American artists and dancers and crowds of 100,000+ gather to watch a huge parade through the streets of downtown Oklahoma City. There are dance competitions, art exhibitions, a fund-raising auction, craft displays, a fun run and general celebrations of indigenous culture and traditions. Oklahoma is home to more Native Americans than any other state in the U.S. and this festival is considered the most respected visual and performing arts event of its type. It kicks off with the benefit auction on the evening of Thursday June 1, followed by the Red Earth Parade on Friday, June 2 and the reintroduction of the Red Earth Run on Saturday, June 3. A three-day weekend pass costs $20 for adults and $15 for senior citizens and children six to 17. Children under the age of six are admitted free. Individual day passes and $10 and $7.50 respectively. For more information and visit the Festival website (tel. 405/427-5228; www.redearth.org)

Spoleto Festival USA, Charleston SC: May 26 to June 11, 2006

I may be a little biased when it comes to this festival, having worked many years ago with the Spoleto organization to establish the festival in Melbourne, Australia. Although the original is in Spoleto, Italy, the Spoleto Festival, USA is a spectacular celebration of the arts held over 17 days in historic Charleston and the city is transformed into a thriving hot bed of performances, dance, opera, music, circus, theatre and visual arts. Local restaurants and shops get into the festival atmosphere, special menus and late openings. The festival has a reputation for showcasing cutting edge acts, internationally acclaimed performers, theatrical premi¿res and rarely-performed operas. This years program is no exception with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, Sara Baras Flamenco Ballet, operas Romeo and Juliette and Don Giovanni, plays -- Tristan and Yseult and Geisha, and circus acts Circus by the Sea and Circus Flora. See Charleston at her very best as she shines during the Spoleto Festival. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Festival website (tel. 843/722-2764; www.spoletousa.org)

Greeley Independence Stampede, Greeley CO: June 23 to July 4, 2006

Fancy getting down and dirty with cowboys for a week or so? The Greeley Stampede is rich in tradition and heritage, dating back to the late 19th century when it began a community celebration honoring local potato farmers. From humble beginnings it has grown into an internationally acclaimed festival, attracting close to half a million visitors and spectators annually. The 12 -day festival features Pro Rodeo (mens and womens), bull-riding, a kids' rodeo, a 4th of July Parade, fireworks, music concerts, a demolition derby, Midway carnival, a Western art exhibition, free entertainment, theatre, western food and most importantly a real taste of Western hospitality. The Greeley rodeo is rated as one of the top ten in the U.S. by the Professional Rodeo and Cowboy Association.

Admission to the event grounds is free and event prices are as follows:

  • Pro Rodeo $6.50 - $20
  • Kid's Rodeo $4.50 - $7.50
  • Concerts $25 - $47
  • Demolition Derby $9.50 - $20

The "Stars and Spurs" package gives you tickets to two concerts and a day of Pro Rodeo for one great price. Prices start at $47 and include a ticket to Trisha Yearwood and Mark Chesnutt on July 1, a ticket to Sugarland with Darryl Worley on July 2, as well as the Pro Rodeo on June 27, 28 or 29. For more information visit their website (tel. 800/982-2855; www.greeleystampede.org).

Summer Redneck Games, East Dublin GA: July 8, 2006

Its true - I have written about the Redneck Games before (Frommers.com, May 2005) but I just cant write about summer festivals without including this pearl of trailer trash spectacles. The people of East Dublin first introduced this annual event as an alternative to the Atlanta Olympic Games back in 1996. Not meant to ridicule or insult, rather it celebrates some of the rather strange and downright dirty pastimes of the local population. From the Mud-Pit Belly Flop, to the Hubcap Hurl, Bobbing for Pig's Feet, the Dumpster Dive, watermelon seed spitting, bug zapping by spitball, big-hair contest and the Armpit Serenade, there is something appealing for everyone. Dont miss the opening event -- the annual O'Conee River Redneck Raft Race, which features a flotilla of homemade rafts made from rather odd objects. Dont just visit -- compete and you could win an authentic crushed Bud light beer can trophy. The event is held at Buckeye Park and although general admission is free, there is a $5 per car parking fee. Gates open at 11am and the Games start 12pm. I had a bit of trouble accessing what was their old website address, so for further information telephone 912/272-4422.

Brimfield Antiques and Collectibles Fair, Brimfield MA: July 14 to 15, 2006

I love a summer day spent foraging through market stalls, sorting the trash from the treasure. A great flea market is often hard to find and one of the best around is the Brimfield Antiques and Collectibles Fair, held three times per year (also in May and September) in the town of Brimfield in central Massachusetts. Antique and memorabilia dealers come from across the country and even from overseas to set up their stalls for the gigantic two-day market held at Auction Acres. The event is a tradition in the area and is now celebrating its 48th year. With over 700 exhibitors and only two short days t sell their wares, bargaining abounds so bring your wallet, your sharp eye and a large car to carry home your booty. For more information visit the Fairs website (www.jandj-brimfield.com).

Hudson Riverflicks, New York City: Every Wednesday & Friday night in July and August, 2006

I love New York in the summer. Sure it swelters and is stiflingly humid at times, but it is also the time when the city comes to life (well during the weekdays anyway -- on the weekends everyone escapes for the beach). From July until late August, free films are shown down by the Hudson River under the stars - on Wednesday nights at Pier 54 and on Fridays at Pier 25.Cult classics, cinematic masterpieces and free popcorn -- what more could you ask for? Its the perfect date setting or a place to catch up with friends. If you are visiting the city, its a good way to feel like a local (or alternatively you can try the Monday night free films at Bryant Park). Films begin at sunset, but like most New York free events, you need to get their early, stake your claim on an area and lay down your picnic blanket. Put on by the Hudson River Park Trust, the Hudson River website (www.hudsonriverpark.org) will have more details and the film schedule starting in June 2006.

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