LATE JUNE TO EARLY JULY.
SO THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE!
If truckloads of alien paraphernalia and tens of thousands of alien-existence believers are anything to go by, then yes. The belief that there is something out there is alive and well at the world’s premier UFO festival.
ROSWELL IS WHERE IT ALL HAPPENED, RIGHT?
Sure is – this is where the extra-terrestrial spaceship (aka military surveillance balloon) crash-landed in 1947. Don’t feel left out if you’re a believer in the balloon over the spaceship; the festival actively welcomes any sceptics out there who might need some convincing.
WITH A SHORTAGE OF ACTUAL ALIENS AND UFOS, WHAT ELSE HAS THE FESTIVAL GOT IN STORE?
Over the course of four days there are costume competitions, including one for your pet, if they enjoy getting their alien on too; an alien street parade; live musical entertainment; and guest speaking panels packed with authors who have been published on the topic of the moment – ETs and UFOs.
DEATH ISN’T USUALLY A GOOD REASON FOR A RAUCOUS PARTY.
Try telling Mexico that. The widely observed and wildly popular ‘Day of the Dead’ festival is more about a joyous celebration of life than it is a subdued mourning of the dead.
HOW ON EARTH DID THIS COME ABOUT?
It’s believed that the modern Mexican celebrations originated in indigenous traditions and rituals over 3000 years old. By the late 20th century the customs had developed to honour the deaths of children on 1 November and adults on 2 November.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS AT THESE DEATHLY PARTIES?
Families will decorate the graves of their lost loves as well as set up altars in their homes with the deceased’s favourite food, drink, candles, flowers and incense in order to wish them well in the next world. The exuberant celebrations include dressing up in masks and painting faces. The ubiquitous skull motif has become a symbol of the festival, as it’s designed to remind us that no matter what we are in life, we are the same in death.
LATE JUNE TO EARLY JULY.
SO THIS IS WHERE WE GO IF WE WANT SOME SMOOTH JAZZ?
That’s right. Each year, Montreal sees the largest collection of cool cats in the world. And if you don’t believe us, take the Guinness Book of World Records’ word for it – they list the festival as the world’s biggest jazz fest; with around 3000 artists from more than 30 countries performing more than 650 concerts to over 2.5 million visitors. Now those are some seriously cool stats.
HOW WILL WE FIT IT ALL IN?
There are shows in big concert halls and popular clubs, but many of the performances are free and outdoors. Part of the city’s downtown district is closed to traffic for 10 days so that shows can be staged in the streets and city parks, so no one misses out.
WHO CAN WE HOPE TO SEE?
If past line-ups are anything to go by you’ll get a who’s who of who’s hot. The festival has featured legends like Leonard Cohen, Ella Fitzgerald, Paco de Lucia, John McLaughlin and Keith Jarrett in the past, and recent headliners have included k.d. lang, Diana Ross, Chick Corea and Joey Alexander.
TWO WEEKENDS IN APRIL.
FINALLY, A FESTIVAL FOR ALL THE FORGOTTEN RICH AND FAMOUS KIDS OF CALIFORNIA.
I know, right! Poor dears. Anyone who isn’t a supermodel or international ‘it’ girl might feel like they’ve stumbled onto the set of an advertisement for Coca Cola. Don’t worry, though. The extras get to have just as much fun without the paparazzi tailing their every move.
SO THE CROWD IS YOUNG AND PAINFULLY COOL – WHAT ABOUT THE MUSIC?
If you’re over 40, you’ll struggle to recognise a majority of the names, unless of course you’re one of those middle-aged hipsters; then you’ll recognise names like Beachhouse, Flume, Gary Clarke Jnr, and Purity Ring. There are hundreds of established and up-and-coming acts that perform in a wonderfully eclectic variety of genres. Think hip-hop, rock, indie and electronic dance.
WE MIGHT BE TOO OLD FOR THIS.
Oh get out! In 2016, the organisers rolled out Guns N’ Roses as a headline act. Rock on, oldies!
Katz’s Delicatessen (205 E. Houston St) is one of the last big delis on the Lower East Side, packing in locals, tourists, and people heading to hear music in the area which is full of great little venues. Katz’s has what some say is the best pastrami sandwich in the city, with the meat sliced by hand, and served with giant homemade pickles. Place your order at the counter, then jostle for a seat at a table. You might end up occupying the very seat in which Meg Ryan played out her famous ‘climax’ scene in When Harry Met Sally. Cash only.
Nora Jones honed her craft a couple of blocks away at the mellow Living Room (154 Ludlow St, which features several good bands a night with no cover charge. Arlene’s Grocery (95 Stanton St) showcases new rock, metal, and indie bands for a cheap cover. Bluegrass, alt-country, and American roots are the focus at the intimate Rockwood Music Hall (196 Allen St), or at the louder two-level Delancey (168 Delancey St). On Monday nights the Parkside Lounge (317 E. Houston St) hosts great bluegrass jams. Good indie and alternative bands play The Mercury Lounge (217 E. Houston St) and even better bands from around the world play the historic Bowery Ballroom (6 Delancey St).
SOME TOWNS JUST KNOW HOW TO THROW A GOOD PARTY.
The city of New Orleans just can’t help itself, and during the annual Mardi Gras it’s a no holds barred, free-for-all, fun time. The motto of the festival is ‘les bons temp rouler’ which translates to ‘let the good times roll’.
WHY MARDI GRAS AND WHY HERE?
Mardi Gras is French for ‘fat Tuesday’, which, for those who observe the Christian calendar, is a sign it’s time to go all out before Lent begins, when it’s expected you’ll reign it in and behave yourself. The French are credited with bringing Mardi Gras to New Orleans, but it’s the mix with the mystic and pagan ‘krewes’ that gives Mardi Gras in New Orleans its edge.
CAN WE JOIN A KREWE?
The krewes are exemplified by different parades which actually represent different neighbourhoods or local communities. They’re themed and highly decorated with epic floats and awesome costumes. If you’re a visitor and not part of a krewe, you’ll have to settle for epic and awesome dancing, drinking, music and mounds of the famous colourful beads.
LAST MONDAY OF AUGUST TO FIRST MONDAY IN SEPTEMBER.
ISN’T THIS A BUNCH OF HIPPIES DANCING AROUND IN THE DESERT?
We prefer to think of it as 70,000 free-spirits bringing their creative energy together to enjoy one of the world’s biggest arts and culture festivals.
No kidding. Since its organic inception in 1986, when founder Larry Harvey and friends spontaneously burnt an effigy of a man on a San Francisco beach, the festival has grown into a mind-boggling plethora of artistic expression, from supersized sculptures to interactive performances. Each night is a flaming, kaleidoscopic circus of light, sound, music and dancing.
IT MIGHT BE TIME TO LET GO OF ALL OUR TRADITIONAL, MATERIALISTIC HANG-UPS AND JOIN THE FUN.
That’s the spirit. The festival is not a spectator experience: be prepared to dive headlong into costumes and connections. Most attendees join a themed camp and help out by constructing the realisation of the camp’s ethos. Past camps have included concepts like Playasos, a light-hearted community of people who love spontaneous play and exploration; or ‘…and then there’s only LOVE’, for the ‘romantics’ who look forward to meeting up in the Orgy Dome. For real.
FEBRUARY OR MARCH.
FOOD, WINE, THE BEACH – THESE ARE SOME WINNING INGREDIENTS ALREADY.
This food and wine extravaganza has been running for 15 years and attracts foodie superstars from not only the United States but all over the world. This kind of culinary clout draws in more than 65,000 guests who partake in over 80 different events over five, flavour-packed days.
THE REAL QUESTION HERE IS, ‘DO WE GET TO TASTE?’
Absolutely. Outside of cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs such as the likes of Bobby Flay and Martha Stewart, there are tasting events like the luxurious Oyster Bash, top notch fruits of the sea with matched wines, or the best burger competition – where the crowd gets a say in who gets crowned best burger chef for the festival.
I CAN’T DECIDE WHAT TO EAT.
If the veritable smorgasbord of events is too much to take in, then get into the Grand Tasting Village on the last day. There’s a little bit of everything on offer so you can stroll and sample at your own pace.
THIS LOOKS LIKE A TASTY WAY TO SPEND A DAY.
What started as a community initiative to boost interest in local seafood has become a world-regarded festival celebrating the superior quality of the region’s marine produce. Tasty indeed.
DO WE ALL SIT AROUND GORGING OURSELVES ON LOBSTER?
And butter – don’t forget the butter. Each year, close to 10,000 kilos of these delicious crustaceans are cooked up with over 750 kilos of melted butter. We are not even kidding. Luckily, if you feel the need to burn off some of this extravagant eating, the festival organisers have cooked up some seafood-themed activities so you can justify round two.
NOT JUST EATING COMPETITIONS?
Break up the gorging by joining the joggers in the 10km road race; or have a go at the Lobster Crate Race, where competitors hop from crate to crate across the open water; or just cheer on the festival’s reigning Sea Goddess at the Maine Street Parade. There are also cooking demonstrations and competitions, so you can take a little lobster inspiration from the locals back home with you.
MEMORIAL DAY IN THE USA (LATE MAY).
NOW THIS IS A PRETTY SETTING FOR A FESTIVAL. WHAT’S GOING ON?
Part memorial day, part celebration of cultural harmony, this serene lantern festival starts with a sounding of the pu, a Hawaiian conch shell. The call of the pu sanctifies the beach for the beginning of the festival.
AND ONCE THIS BEAUTIFUL BEACH HAS BEEN BLESSED, WHAT HAPPENS THEN?
A series of local customs and rituals designed to call people together in peace and harmony. There’s a performance of the hula and an Oli chant.
AND THE LANTERN PART?
There are six main lanterns which carry the prayers offered for victims of war (that’s the memorial bit). Then there are prayers for those who have died as a result of natural and man-made disasters, famine, disease, and water-related accidents. We’re not entirely sure why prayers are said for these victims exclusively, but we’re pretty sure you could get away with floating your own lantern for whoever you want. In the end, it’s the sight of hundreds of candlelit lanterns floating over the water under the setting sun that brings beauty and peace all around.