January 9, 2004 -- People like to party. Many people will find any excuse for a spontaneous party; others prefer to plan their parties in advance. Wondering if there will be a festival taking place in your next vacation destination? Or do you just want to enjoy the World Cow Chip Throwing Championship in Oklahoma in April? Turn to Festivals.com, the global resource for festivals and other cheerful events.
Festivals.com isn't perfect; when we asked their Web site for the best cultural events, it spat back a long list of festivals whose time had mostly passed. And we know it's missing many events here in our hometown of New York. But it's the biggest and best global destination for finding a festival on any topic, in any location in the world. If you have specific travel plans, you can always turn to the tourism office for your destination for more information.
This month alone, there's a lettuce festival in Yuma, Arizona, an Art Deco architecture festival in Miami Beach, a roast pig festival in Louisiana, and a huge winter festival in central Wisconsin. We find that the best way to search the site (www.festivals.com) is to click the "Search" button, and then "Search by Location" picking a state or country then a month.
A Four-Month Party: Barcelona's Forum 2004
One of the world's biggest festivals will be in Spain next year, and I heard an earful about it when I was in Barcelona in November. From May 9 to September 26, Barcelona will be taken over by "Forum 2004," an extraordinary event that will bring uncounted thousands of people to the city for a summer of concerts, performances, speeches and exhibitions.
Think of the Forum as the ultimate celebration of an optimistic, vaguely leftist perspective. The five-month festival is devoted to the themes of cultural diversity, sustainable development, and "conditions for peace."
Exhibitions will cover topics like human rights, biodiversity, "Water For Everyone" and "Ethical Banking." The four biggest exhibitions will explore the interaction of people with their environment. One, called "Cities-Corners," claims to be "a tribute to the city as a motor of social, cultural and political exchange."
Markets will sell recycled and "fair trade" goods, stuff that's been acquired without oppressing the third-world farmers and craftspeople who made it.
Less didactically, the period will feature 423 concerts by 170 different musical groups from all over the world, puppet shows, parties, and theater and dance shows pretty much every night.
Lest you think this is all about cuddly righteousness, there's some filthy lucre involved. The Forum has become the impetus for the development of an entirely new neighborhood, 22@, on new landfill by the seashore east of downtown. The city's new convention center, a slew of four- and five-star business hotels, a port, a gigantic plaza and two open-air theatres are dusted across the new land, which also has its own subway station. After the Forum ends, Barcelona aims to draw conventioneers and their business-suited cash to the area.
Even if you never set foot in the Forum zone, the festival will be impossible to avoid. Forum organizers promise to spread theatrical events across the many plazas of Barcelona, and you're sure to see some on the Ramblas. From June 12-15, a 'Festival of the Sea' will bring hundreds of boats to the waterfront for a celebration of "maritime culture."
For more details, such as ticket prices and schedules, see www.barcelona2004.org.The one thing that's certain about the Forum is that hotel rates (and probably airfares as well) will shoot up during the period, so inquire about bookings as soon as you can.
To catch up on other readers' opinions and suggestions for finding festivals, check out this recent thread on our Message Boards. Click here to go there.