Summer is the time for rushing to crowded places to celebrate and experience culture. The best festivals and events in the country should be taking place in the next few months, but gathering hundreds of people together is ill-advised. Instead, lots of organizers have adapted their events to be experienced virtually. On the bright side, this could give even more people access to art, comedy, films, and other cultural events.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Firefly Light Show
Each summer, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park lights up with 19 species of bioluminescent beetles, also known as fireflies. From late May to mid-June, a particular type of firefly flashes synchronously in the night during its mating season, and visitors flock to the park to witness the stunning display. Although the event was cancelled this year, Discover Life in America created a virtual experience with photographer Radim Schreiber so that anyone can see the natural light show from their own home.
The Pandemic Faire
This virtual art fair curates work from contemporary artists located around the globe for visitors to browse in lieu of attending art festivals in the real world. With new artists added weekly, the Pandemic Faire offers art lovers exposure to new creators along with links to purchase their work from galleries and personal websites.
Second City Online
The Chicago-based improvisational comedy troupe is offering a slew of free virtual programming for you to enjoy “from the discomfort of your own home.” By registering for the live performances with Zoom, attendees can watch and take part in weekly improvisational shows like Improv House Party, Girls Night In, and the family-friendly Really Awesome Improv Show Online. Second City has also released The Last Show Left on Earth, a four-episode YouTube variety show with sketches and musical guests (the first episode features one of the last appearances of the late, great Fred Willard).
All In WA
The first place in the U.S. to be hit hard by COVID-19, Washington state, has seen philanthropists and communities come together to organize a virtual concert to benefit its workers and families who have been hit hardest by the pandemic. All In WA is collecting donations to go toward food and housing insecurity in the state, and the concert, to be livestreamed on June 24, will feature Pearl Jam, Ciara, Macklemore, Dave Matthews, and more.
Blue Ox Music Festival
In Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the Blue Ox Music Festival has brought bluegrass and Americana musicians to this family-friendly event since 2015. Although the festival will lack a live audience this year, the acts will still be livestreamed on YouTube on June 12 and 13. Sam Bush, Pert Near Sandstone, Charlie Parr, and Them Coulee Boys will perform, and Chicago-based bluegrass band The Henhouse Prowlers will give a talk about their experience teaching music in the U.S. and abroad.
June 19th, the anniversary of the end of slavery in the U.S., is widely celebrated around the country. Denver’s celebration, which includes a music festival, awards, comedy, and financial literacy segments, will be livestreamed on June 18. Their celebration of African-American history also comes with a call to make Juneteenth a national holiday.
Through July 31, A Women’s Thing is holding an online exhibition and auction called “Stretching Arms.” The collection features young women artists from New Zealand, Russia, China, and Belarus and asks the question, “How do we transcend solitude?”
A rave, experienced through the videogame Minecraft, is calling itself “the world’s largest virtual music festival.” With more than 300 electronic artists and digital recreations of music venues and mini-games, admission to Electric Blockaloo on June 25-28 will require “guest list” links from artists distributed via social media.
Seattle’s summer (and fall) of cultural festivals will be taken online. The Chinese Culture and Arts Festival, Black Arts Fest, Iranian Festival, and more will offer dancing, art, workshops, and classes to anyone wishing to “make 2020 memorable for the resilience and beautiful moments of humanity,” and you don’t have to be in Seattle to enjoy it all.
Colorado Public Radio’s annual festival of classical music features world-class musicians and singers performing for 10 weeks each summer. This year, CPR is bringing in Joshua Bell, the National Repertory Orchestra, and some of Colorado’s own musical institutions to keep classical selections playing all summer. You can tune in online or by using a smart speaker.
NYC Dance Week Virtual Fest
Dance studios in New York City are offering free dance classes from June 11-20, and they’re open to everyone everywhere. Ballet, yoga, jazz, hip-hop, and tons of other fitness lessons are on offer from a host of studios. If you ever wanted to try a professional class (or 10), this is your chance to do it with no commitment or cost.
Key West Mango Fest
If you were wondering what to do with all of those extra mangoes you have lying around, Key West Mango Fest might have a virtual answer for you. Join in on virtual cooking and cocktail demonstrations, contests, and shopping that revolve around the “king of fruits.”
deadCENTER Film Festival
Oklahoma City’s 20th annual film festival will be going virtual (with some possible drive-in options). By purchasing an all-access pass or individual tickets, you can stream the shorts, music videos, and feature films as well as see panels and workshops with filmmakers from around the globe.
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