Sun-dried dog poop in the parkway? Disgusting. Desiccated cow poop flung across a field in Wisconsin? Get in the car! It doesn’t take much to make a road trip appealing in the summer, but if you need an excuse, take your pick. —Sam Worley
Summer Camp Music Festival Umphrey’s McGee, Keller Williams, and Yonder Mountain String Band are a few of the dozens of jam bands scheduled at this sleepover fest.
Chocolate Fest In addition to chocolate tastings and a chocolate-sculpting contest, there’s entertainment ranging from duck races to BMX bike shows.
Route 75 Garage Sale Now in its eighth year, Illinois’ longest garage sale stretches along 40 miles of State Route 75 between Freeport and South Beloit.
Verge Music Festival A new fest whose lineup includes Weezer, She & Him, Eagles of Death Metal, AFI, and others.
Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival Cheese carving, a cheesecake contest, and a cheese-curd-eating competition, among other themed activities. Also: $1 carnival rides, a petting zoo, live music, and a wine tasting.
American Players Theatre This year’s season at the theater in the woods includes performances of Shakespeare’s As You Like It and All’s Well That Ends Well, George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara, and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.
International Carillon Festival The Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon, a tower of 67 tuned bronze bells played manually using a keyboard, hosts six nights of performances by carillonneurs from around the world.
Bill Monroe’s Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival The oldest continuously running bluegrass festival in the world, held on the estate of the “father of bluegrass,” with more than 50 acts, including Ralph Stanley, James King, and Special Consensus.
Milwaukee Summerfest Milwaukee claims this sprawling event, featuring more than 800 bands, is the world’s largest music festival. Headliners this year include Santana, Brooks & Dunn, the Roots, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, the Moody Blues, Weezer, and Public Enemy.
Indiana Fiddlers’ Gathering Workshops and performances, including the Wazo County Warblers & the Fly Boys, Special Consensus, and the Hot Club of Detroit.
Grand Haven Sand Sculpture Contest Individuals and groups compete to build the best sand sculpture.
Cornerstone Festival Massive Christian music festival.
International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship The farm that hosts this annual competition claims that Brian “Young Gun” Krause—son of renowned spitter Rick “Pellet Gun” Krause—holds the world record, which is 93 feet, 6.5 inches. Challengers can show up for qualifying rounds at 10 AM; for cheerleaders and other spectators, the championship rounds are at 1 PM.
Bristol Renaissance Faire Jousting, wenches, ale, ax throwing, archery, falconry, turkey legs fit for Henry VIII, and more.
Summer Beer Festival More than 300 beers from 50-plus Michigan breweries, along with food and live music.
Circus City Festival Peru, Indiana, bills itself as the circus capital of the world, and its 250-plus-member amateur circus calls itself the greatest amateur show on earth. This annual festival features daily circus performances, carnival attractions, and the second-largest parade in Indiana.
Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival Organizers say this long-running six-day campout is as much about friendship and community among “womyn” as it is the 40 genre-spanning musical performances, film festival, and craft show. Performers for the 35th-anniversary edition include Laura Love, the Indigo Girls, Toshi Reagon, and Mary Gauthier. No men allowed, but there are day camps for kids of all genders, who are reunited with their moms each night. On “650 lush green acres in Michigan,” for location and directions call 231-757-4766.
Amish Acres Arts and Crafts Festival Entertainment on three stages (think old-fashioned medicine shows and bluegrass, not Mr. Blotto) and 350 artists hawking their wares around Amish Acres’ paddle-boat-filled pond.
Wisconsin State Fair Among the fair’s more interesting offerings is a huge textile, craft, culinary, and horticulture show; there’s also a whole pavilion devoted to cream puffs and brownies.
Indiana State Fair With the Giant Hot Air Balloon Race, Red Hat Day, and the World’s Largest Drive-Thru Breakfast. In honor of the Indiana pork industry, this is the “Year of Pigs,” so expect lots of those.
Great River Tug Fest There are events throughout the weekend, but the centerpiece is a giant game of tug-of-war with a 680-pound rope strung across the Mississippi, stopping all river traffic for two hours (Sat 1-3 PM). The inaugural Tug Fest was in 1987; the tally so far is Illinois 13, Iowa 10.
Illinois State Fair Events include horse and auto racing , grandstand concerts (including Blondie, Cheap Trick, and a double bill of Kiss and Journey tribute bands), high diving, and an ethnic village.
On the Waterfront Four-day music fest on 30 city blocks in downtown Rockford, with carnival attractions, a market, and nightly fireworks.
Lake in the Hills Summer Sunset Fest This year at Sunset Fest, Lake in the Hills Jaycees are staging an attempt to set the world record for “largest soda float” (the old one is 3,000 gallons). Aside from that, there’s live music, food, a beer garden, classic cars, and something called “Melon Propellin’.”
Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw and Festival The current record for cow-chip throwing is 248 feet. Can you beat it? Do you want to? About 40,000 people attend this annual festival, which includes an arts and crafts fair, live entertainment, and a “Children’s Chip Chuckin'” event.