Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival
Over the centuries, the pretty little town of Winchester, Va., has seen more than its share of bloodshed. In the 18th century, George Washington set up his headquarters there during the French and Indian War. In the 19th century, the town reputedly changed hands more than 70 times in the course of the Civil War and served alternately as headquarters for both Confederate General Stonewall Jackson and Union General Philip Sheridan.
Since 1924, though, Winchester has become known for its role in a more peaceable event: it plays host to the annual Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, which each spring draws hundreds of thousands of revelers, including a diverse array of celebrities ranging from comic actor Dan Aykroyd to master crooner Pat Boone. Catering to all tastes and talents, this five-day down-home extravaganza, May 3-7, features a food and crafts fair with homemade wares from applesauce and pastries to quilts and Barbie-doll dresses; a 10-km footrace; a pro-am golf tournament; a three-ring circus; jazz, bluegrass and country music; and a 3 1/2-hour parade with 50 high school marching bands.
Anyone who still has an instant to spare can journey back in time and visit some of the many local historic sites and battlefields. But beware: the Shenandoah Valley can be addictive. Country singer Irlene Mandrell, who served as honorary fire marshall in the festival last year, was so enchanted by the beauty of the countryside and the warmth of the citizenry--"I just really had a good time," she says--that she is selling her home in the Nashville, Tenn., area and moving to Winchester with her family. --By Megan Rutherford
American opera and the national pastime have two things in common: devoted fans and Cooperstown, N.Y. Located a few miles from the Baseball Hall of Fame in this upstate town, the Glimmerglass Opera is famed for imaginative productions featuring young American singers on the cusp of major careers. This summer, for its 25th anniversary season, it will present four works in repertory, including the well-known--La Boheme and Salome--and the neglected: Handel's Acis and Galatea and The Glass Blowers, a 1913 operetta by John Philip Sousa. Though he became conductor of the U.S. Marine Band in 1880, Sousa always longed to write for the stage. Set during the Spanish-American War, The Glass Blowers recalls an era of unabashed patriotism and sentimentality. The 43 performances run from July 7 through Aug. 29 in Glimmerglass's charming opera house, located in a bucolic setting outside town.
This is James Fenimore Cooper country. His father founded the village on the south end of nine-mile-long Otsego Lake in 1786, and the author later described the area in the Leatherstocking Tales. Before going to the opera in the evening, visitors can swim or sail. In town, they can spend a thoughtful afternoon at Fenimore House, a 1930s mansion housing Hudson River School paintings, as well as folk and Native American art, or they can walk into America's rural past at the Farmers Museum, in a re-creation of a mid-19th century village. --By Emily Mitchell
Kansas City Jazz and Blues Festival