New Summer Festivals Coming to New York State for 2013

Catch a concert under the stars, experience the thrill of a historical reenactment or try something totally new at one of the hundreds of festivals across New York State this summer.  From the quirky to the sublime, hundreds of events across the Empire State offer the chance to become immersed in new cultures, learn new skills and pursue your passions.  New festivals this year include the Taste of Country Music Festival, June 13–15 at Hunter Mountain in the Catskills, featuring well-known stars such as Lady Antebellum, Willie Nelson and Trace Adkins, and the Finger Lakes Plein Air Festival, June 5–9 in Canandaigua where visitors can watch professional artists at work and create their own sidewalk art.  Continue reading for a small sampling of special events around New York State this summer.

Taste of Country Music Festival, Hunter Mountain, NY


Going for Baroque. The ornate 1891 Fredonia Opera House in Fredonia, in the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, provides an ideal setting for the spirited Baroque music featured in the Bach & Beyond Baroque Music Festival, June 14–16.  In the Catskills, the Catskill Mountain Foundation’s (CMF) Second Annual Piano Performance Museum Festival, July 6 – September 1, features a series of concerts using period pianos and culminating in the Baroque Spectacular performed by Kenneth Hamrick and the American Virtuosi Baroque Opera Theater.  Plus, CMF’s Catskill High Peaks Festival, August 11–21 features chamber music concerts by young musicians.  In the Finger Lakes, the Canandaigua Lake Music Festival, July 12, 14, 17, 19 and 21 draws classical musicians from around the world.

Groovin’ in the Open Air.  Nothing says summer like an open-air concert. Hunter Mountain, in the Catskills, features a series of music festival weekends.  Among the favorites is Radio Woodstock Mountain Jam Fest IX, June 6–9, featuring national recording artists and local bands.  Another Catskill favorite, Greyfox Bluegrass Festival at Walsh Farm in Oak Hill, July 18–21, presents bluegrass & acoustic music, dancing, workshops, family activities and camping.  In the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, the Great Blue Heron Music Festival, July 5–7 in Sherman, brings together national and regional acts performing roots, rock, zydeco, blues, old-time and bluegrass for a celebration of music and dance on 300 acres in the Amish countryside.  And in the Adirondacks, the Tug Hill Bluegrass Festival, June 14 – 16 at the Maple Ridge Center in Lowville offers three days of camping and music.

Rocking on the River: Some of the best outdoor concerts happen along New York’s scenic waterways.  A long-time favorite is the Hudson Valley’s Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival, June 15–16 in Croton-on-Hudson, with music, dance, storytelling and an audience-participation Circle of Song as well as environmental displays and experiences.  Downtown Troy, in the Capital-Saratoga Region, features free outdoor concerts every Wednesday night from June 19 – August 21.  And in the 1000 Islands-Seaway region, the 13th Annual Blues in the Bay, August 29 – September 2 in Alexandria Bay, features free open-air concerts along with performances at local hotels, restaurants and pubs throughout the weekend.

Rochester International Jazz Festival

And all that Jazz. In addition to the world famous Saratoga Jazz Festival, June 29-30 and the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, June 21-29, there are many more jazz festivals throughout the state.  Jazz lovers have at least two timely reasons to visit the Greater Niagara region this summer.  On July 27, the Queen City Jazz Festival at The Colored Musicians Club in Buffalo, which has hosted jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, will be celebrating the club’s 77th anniversary with an all-day affair featuring some of Buffalo’s best jazz musicians.  And on August 23 – 24, the Lewiston Jazz Festival in Lewiston showcases jazz performers from young rising stars to seasoned musicians performing tunes that span six decades of jazz, latin jazz and pop-infused favorites.  CMF’s Catskill Jazz Factory, August 5–11, features a one week residency and concerts plus a growing number of programs for young musicians throughout the year.


Across the Pond. Savor the music, food and fun of France or Germany in your backyard at one of the state’s many ethnic festivals.  The French joie de vivre is embodied in dances, crafts, patisserie and a parade at the 45th Annual French Festival, July 13–14 at Cape Vincent in the 1000 Islands-Seaway region.  Or enjoy authentic German music, food and dancing at the Bavarian Summer Fest at Riedlbauer’s Resort at Round Top in the Catskills, June 22–23 and at the German Alps Festival at Hunter Mountain in the Catskills, August 10–11.

Fiddling Around. In the Catskills, you can go Irish at the 19th Annual Catskills Irish Arts Week July 15 – 20 in Durham & East Durham, where you can learn to fiddle and dance, or at the International Celtic Festival at Hunter Mountain, August 17 – 18 with traditional cuisine and entertainment.  In the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, the Jamestown Regional Celtic Festival and Gathering of the Clans on August 23 in Mayville presents an all Celtic festival with bagpipe bands, Celtic bands, dancers, vendors, Scottish athletic competitions and children’s area, while the Scandinavian Folk Festival, July 19 – 21 at the Gerry Rodeo Grounds in Gerry, features a Viking Village with craft demonstrations and workshops, Scandinavian products and entertainment.

The First People. In the Finger Lakes, at the 22nd Annual Native American Dance & Music Festival, July 27–28 at the Ganondagan State Historic Site, Native American traditional dancers, musicians, storytellers and artists will share their cultural heritage, crafts and arts with visitors of all ages.  In the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, dancers come from across the country to compete in authentic and colorful Native American Dance and Drum Competitions at the annual Seneca Allegany Veterans Pow Wow, July 20-21 at Veteran’s Park in Salamanca.  Native American art, craft and food vendors are also featured.

The Hyde Collection


The Art of the Local. Local creativity ranging from crafts and cuisine to performing arts will be showcased in over 50 events at the Adirondack Arts & Heritage Festival, June 6 – July 7 in the Saranac Lake area, as well as at the Folk School Festival on July 13 at the Adirondack Folk School in Lake Luzerne.  The 33rd Annual Crafts Show, July 12 – 14 and August 9 – 11 at the Chautauqua Institution, is a juried show featuring the work of award winning artists from across the United States.  And the Allentown Art Festival, June 8 – 9 is expected to draw over 400 juried exhibitors.

Art Outdoors. Saranac Lake sets the scene for the Adirondack Plein Air Festival on August 15-18, when painters from all over the country will be at work around Saranac Lake painting the village and surrounding scenic areas.  Canandaigua will also host Arts in the Gardens, August 17– 18 at the Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park, a two day juried fine art and craft show and sale.

Famous Flowers. For many years, Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz lived and worked for part of the year at the Stieglitz family estate in Lake George.  From June 15 – September 15, The Hyde Collection in the Adirondacks will exhibit more than 50 of O’Keeffe’s paintings – some of which are from her time living in Lake George.

Film Festivals. The Long Island International Film Expo, July 18–25, showcases short and feature-length independent films from all over the globe.  In the Adirondacks, the Lake Placid Film Forum, June 14–16, presents an intimate film festival where filmmakers and cast members often attend the screenings.  In the Capital-Saratoga Region, the Ballston Spa International Film Festival, August 2–3, features short films, world premieres and works by young filmmakers.


Biking Through the Countryside. When the snow melts, many steep ski slopes issue their challenge to competitive cyclists.  For example, Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks is the site of the Wilmington-Whiteface Mountain Bike Fest, June 14 – 16, with both uphill and downhill bike races along with family-friendly activities, and the Wilmington/Whiteface 100K, June 16, a Leadville Qualifying Series mountain bike race.  Cyclists who can pedal at least 35 to 45 miles a day can join Parks & Trails New York on the six-day, 200-mile Cycling the Hudson Valley 2013 tour starting on July 30 and traveling from Albany to New York City.  Marked routes, daily maps, cue sheets and snack as well as support vehicles for transporting baggage and equipment will be available.

Up, Up, and Away. The skies are filled with both color and music at the 34th Annual Jamesville Balloonfest, June 28-30.  Over 20,000 people converge on Jamesville Beach (right outside Syracuse) for concerts, carnival rides and food, and hot air balloons.  Nearly two dozen hot air balloons will be on display including a 100 foot tall elephant named “Peanut,” and guests can even take flight for an additional fee.

Parks & Trails New York

Image courtesy Parks & Trails New York


Who has the Best Ribs? Farmers’ markets from Long Island to the 1000 Islands brim with fresh seasonal produce.  Wineries and breweries often welcome visitors with live music and entertainment throughout the summer.  Plus, there are cookouts, culinary competitions and celebrations for everything from barbecue to sauerkraut to strawberries to Buffalo wings.  Taste dozens of craft beers at the 3rd Annual Riverside Brewfest in the Catskills, June 29 – 30.  There’s even an event that brings professional barbecue teams from across North America–the  Troy Pig Out, July 13 – 14 in downtown Troy, in the Capital Saratoga region, where events includes People’s Choice competitions and plenty of opportunities for sampling.

Living History. Reenactments are a fun way to experience history.  This summer, you can participate in a military encampment during Old Home Days, June 14 – 15 at Veterans’ Memorial Field in Thurman, in the Adirondacks, or at the Knickerbocker Summer Festival, July 20 – 21 at the Knickerbocker Mansion in Schaghticoke, in the Capital-Saratoga region, where a Civil War Encampment will be set up.  The 1000 Island-Seaway region has two fun re-enactments as well.  The Grand War of 1812 Bicentennial Reenactment, August 3 – 4 in Sackets Harbor, features living history traditions including camp life, cooking, music and military maneuvers, and Bill Johnston’s Pirate Days  August 9 – 18, in Alexandria Bay, offers ten days of tall ships, music, food and swashbuckling fun for the whole family with pirate invasions taking place on both weekends.

Genesee Country Village and Museum

On Long Island, Old Bethpage Village Restoration, a 19th century living history village, celebrates Old Fashioned Independence Day on July 4 with traditional fiddle music, military drills, parades and ceremonies and a reading of the Declaration of Independence.  And in the Hudson Valley, there will be a Civil War Troopers Fife & Drum Muster, July 27 – 28 at the Orange County Farmer’s Museum in Montgomery, with fifing and drumming troops on the fields of a restored 19th century farm.  The Brickhouse Museum will also be open to the public (nominal fee) with exhibits of period farmhouse decor  and free demonstrations at the blacksmith shop and sawmill.  And during Path Through History Weekends, June 1 – 2 and 8 – 9, in the Capital-Saratoga region, the Crailo State Historic Site in Rensselaer offers an Open House with costumed interpreters preparing Dutch Colonial treats and home remedies for all that ails you.  For more history-themed events at state parks and historic sites, visit

Bonding with Birds and Butterflies. June is the height of the northbound songbird migration and the Roger Tory Peterson Birding Festival, June 8-9 in Jamestown, in the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, invites visitors to follow in the footsteps of naturalist Roger Tory Peterson to see the diversity of colorful migratory birds that frequent the region.  In the Adirondacks region, birders can register for hikes, canoe trips, safaris and seminars at the 9th Annual Boreal Birding Festival, June 7–9 at Lake Pleasant in the town of Adirondacks.  The Chautauqua-Allegheny region’s Monarch Butterfly Festival, August 31 at the Audubon Nature Center in Jamestown, offers the chance to see Monarchs in all stages of their life cycle and see how adult butterflies are tagged so that scientists can trace their migration.  Nature lovers will also enjoy Hudson River Days, July 20–21, held at locations throughout the Hudson Valley, where they can learn about and enjoy the river’s scenery, ecology and recreational uses.

And more. From wild nature to wacky creativity, New York State knows how to have fun. Anglers of all skill levels can take part in the Lake Ontario Pro-Am Tournament Series starting with Niagara’s 29th Annual Tournament, June 1-2, which leaves out of Wilson and Olcott or during the 8th Annual Orleans County Tournament, June 8-9, starting from Point Breeze port.  Consider the 6th Annual Tannersville Crazy Race & Festival, on July 27 in Tannersville in the Catskills, where contestants build a racer from beds, flower pots, garbage cans or anything they can imagine and race down Main Street.  Or experience the Gerry Rodeo, July 21– August 3, one of the oldest rodeos east of the Mississippi.  Or attend Lucy Comedy Fest 2013, August 1–4 at the Lucille Ball – Desi Arnaz Center in the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, to catch well-known and rising comedians from around the country.

Our State Fair is a Great State Fair.  Of course it wouldn’t be summer without a fair, and New York has a great one (seriously, it’s in the name).  The Great New York State Fair held in Syracuse traditionally closes out the summer festival season for 12 days from August 22 – Labor Day, September 2.  The Fair is the oldest in the country and brings together everything you would expect, food, music, rides, games, exhibits, animals, and more.  For a sampling of the Fair fun, click here for a photoessay of the 2012 Great New York State Fair.

2012 New York State Fair

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About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.