Your Guide to Summer Festivals

Summertime means music, food and other festivals.

windy city smokeout
The Windy City Smokeout is a barbecue and country-music festival held just one block from the Chicago River.Jeff Marini

Feathers got ruffled last year when a $120,000 Canadian-government grant helped secure the world’s largest rubber duck as an attraction for a summertime waterfront festival in Toronto. The duck was about 60 feet tall and weighed some 30,000 pounds. Organizers said they hoped visitors would “flock” to see the duck. And they did, with the colossal cutie drawing about 750,000 attendees, creating a $7.6 million economic impact — and showing once again that people love any excuse to celebrate summer on the waterfront.

The crowd-pleasing lobster alone will be headlining more than a few waterfront festivals this summer in areas within walking distance of marinas, including Rockland Harbor, Maine; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Bradley Beach, New Jersey; Key West, Florida; and Redondo Beach, California.

Music festivals also jam the waterfronts from June through August, and there’s one for every type of music fan. For headbangers, Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion on the Penobscot River in Bangor, Maine, will host the Impact Music Festival from July 27-29, with acts including Prophets of Rage, Marilyn Manson and Slayer. An entirely different vibe will bring George Thoroughgood and the Destroyers to the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Oregon, July 4-7. And for fans of smooth saxophone riffs, the Norfolk Waterfront Jazz Festival is scheduled August 24-25 at Town Point Park in Virginia.

summer water festivals
True fact: A half-day of water skiing, wakeboarding or paddleboarding from the yacht can work off the food-fest pounds.Jeff Marini

The great thing about having a yacht is that you can cruise up to any or all of them, all summer long.

Keep an eye on your radar, though, for giant rubber ducks in the anchorages.

Where to Find the Fun

  • 50th anniversary Newport Music Festival is July 4-22 in Rhode Island.

  • Beaufort Water Festival is July 13-22 in South Carolina.

  • Wooden Boat Festival is July 21 at Huddy Park in Toms River, New Jersey, sponsored by the Toms River Seaport Societyand Maritime Museum.  

  • Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival is July 27 to August 5 on Lake Michigan.   

  • Maine Lobster Festival is August 1-5 at Rockland Harbor. This annual seafood fest has been held since 1947. Some 20,000 pounds of lobster are expected to be eaten.

  • Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival is August 11 at Lakeshore State Park in Wisconsin.   

  • Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam is Labor Day Weekend in Panama City, Florida.