Festival Fever

Let's do festivals right.

With its rich ethnic heritage, glorious summer weather and accessible neighborhoods, Cleveland has always been known for its festivals.

But the dirty little secret is this: Most of our festivals have featured beer, bratwurst and bad entertainment. What could be an ethereal artistic event turn into a shopping mall on the Cuyahoga with soulless vendors and stages full of has-beens. The once-proud Riverfest deteriorated into a Flats free-for-all. Our massive-scale Mall events have been turned over to festival-in-a-box promoters who have no feel for our local assets.

Cleveland can do better than this. There's no question that we've got the talent in this town — it just needs a better showcase. The good news is, with our top-notch arts groups and nonprofit organizations, a well-run, artistic festival event can be more than just a dream.

We'll point you to a few fantastic festival-type ideas below, but let's also plant a seed. Why let other towns steal our thunder with their citywide arts festivals that attract people from the wider region? If Clevelanders work together and coordinate th city's existing arts offerings, we could put on a singular, breathtaking, citywide arts festival that would draw from that huge chunk of the North American population that lives within a 500-mile radius of Cleveland. That's called driving distance, folks, and that's Cleveland's festival future.

Ohio City Street Fair See what all the hype is about in Ohio City and get a taste of dozens of local merchants showcasing their wares for this inaugural event with hot live music, cutting-edge cultural events and art displays in conjunction with Open Air in Market Square Aug. 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This event, organized by the Ohio City Near West Development Corp., is part of a well-organized, summerlong series, and is free and open to the community. Call (216) 287-4911. Market Square Park, Vest 25th Street and Lorain Avenue, right across the street from the West Side Market. www.openairinmarketsquare.com

Lakewood Arts Festival Now in its 27th year, this professional street arts festival holds itself to a higher level of quality, featuring a juried exhibition of fine art from across the region. Rain or shine, you'll be able to stroll the colorful scene and hear live music, enjoy selections of local food and partake in kids' activities Aug. 7 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call (216) 529-6651. Located on Detroit Avenue between Belle and Elmood avenues in Lakewood. www.lkwdpl.org/city/artsfest

Koresh Dance Company Renowned for its powerful stage presence and high-energy style, Philadelphia's dance group has been lauded as an extraordinary newcomer to the national stage. The troupe presents an exciting and emotional blend of modern and jazz-styled ballet. Take in their rapid-fire, large-scale choreography Aug. 12 at 8 p.m. It's a featured selection of DANCECleveland's 2004-2005 contemporary dance program and is presented by Cain Park, known for its high-quality art, accessibility and well-organized offerings. Call (440) 914-0744. Cain Park, Evans Amphitheater at Lee and Superior roads in Cleveland Heights. www.cainpark.com

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