Hot Summer Guide: Cultural events and festivals

Whether it’s food, international culture, history or zombies, you’ll like what we’ve got cooking in our list of happenings between now and Labour Day.

Seaport Beer festival

CATCH: The Nova Scotia Seafood Festival

June 27

Get those culinary taste buds ready for a weekend of seafood: CATCH will be working overtime. The festival promises to be a weekend of tasting, learning, shopping and just generally loving all things fishy. Presented by the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the festival's focus is to provide those in Halifax with access to local seafood products, restaurants and wineries. Chef Ray Bear from Bear Restaurant is hosting the GREAT CATCH Chef Competition, Seafood Sensations Culinary Theatre will teach you some tasty recipes and Kids' Cove is returning to show those kiddies what daily life in the fishing industry is really like. There will even be a celebrity appearance by chef Anna Olson, of the Food Network Canada's Fresh with Anna Olson. General admission tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and children under 12 are free. If you buy your ticket online via CATCH's website, you'll save two bucks. (HG)

Multicultural Festival

June 27 and 28

When the last weekend of June rolls around, your tummy will be rumbling for all the delectable and international dishes at the Multicultural Festival. Head over to Alderney Landing June 27 (10am to midnight) and 28 (10am to 7pm) to satiate that appetite, and stay to enjoy the music and dance performances, children's activities, workshops, arts and crafts and cultural displays. Festival day passes for the weekend are $6 per adult, $5 for youth, students and seniors, and $2 for children from six to 12 years old; children under five are free. This year's festival gets off to a singing start with singers Sarah Slean, Paula Cole and Divine Brown headlining a kick-off concert June 26 at Alderney Landing. Hosted by MIR, the night of music costs $32 beforehand and $40 at the gate. Concert prices include a festival weekend pass for both an adult and child (under the age of 12). (HG)

Tall Ships Nova Scotia Festival

Never does our little metropolis look more like its Maritime self than when tall ship sails take over the harbour. From July 16 to 20, Halifax will be transformed when 40 to 50 tall ships dock for an international gathering. They'll be moored all weekend, with public boardings from 10am to 5pm, Friday to Sunday, so you can take a peek at what's inside. While not nosing around on the ships, you can also enjoy historical re-enactments, arts and crafts displays, musicians, vendors and an open-air cafe along the waterfront. The ships will leave for Cape Breton with a showy Parade of Sail Monday, July 20. If you want to follow their route, some tall ships will stop in Port Hawkesbury (July 22-23), Louisbourg (July 22-23) and Sydney (July 25-26), while yet another group will sail to Lunenburg (July 22-23), Pictou (July 28-29) and Pugwash (July 31-August 1). (HG)

Canada Day 2009

July 1

The country is 142 this summer, though she doesn't look a day over 115. The first of July is a Wednesday this year, which should break up the week nicely. The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo will be on parade starting at 10:30am, if pa-rum-pum-pums are your thing, from Royal Artillery Park on Sackville down Brunswick to Spring Garden, and looping around back to the Metro Centre. The specifics of pancake breakfasts and Citadel Hill ceremonies are still in flux right now, but you can bet they'll be happening, along with the 10pm fireworks over the harbour (weather allowing). Also FYI, the annual Fort Needham Canada Day Picnic put together by CKDU actually happens July 26 this year. (CK)

Canada’s Parks Day

July 18

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Canada's Parks Day, meaning a variety of community volunteer organizations and Department of Natural Resources staff are working their butt off planning a day you'll not soon forget. Festivities range from a moonlight tour of Shubenacadie Wildlife Park, to a scavenger hunt on Graves Island, art on the beach at Taylor Head Provincial Park, a family fun day and barbecue at Porters Lake and a lifeguard competition at Rissers Beach---no Baywatch cracks allowed. Whycocomagh Provincial Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary on the same day and is making the most of it with a rockin' outdoor birthday party, including guided hikes and tug-of-war games. As if all that wasn't enough to knock your socks off (you might need them for hiking, so don't knock them too far), Canada's Parks Day is partnering with the International year of Astronomy to plan special, astronomy-related events. I'd expect some telescopic equipment. (HG)

St. Antonio’s Lebanese Festival

July 9-12

Did you love the Lebanese food at the Multicultural Festival? Good, because there's an entire festival dedicated to its scrumptiousness two weekends later! St. Antonio's Lebanese Festival celebrates its eighth anniversary this year, giving you a chance to chow down on kibbi, tabouleh, hummus, falafel, fatayer, kafta and various other dishes, all in one big weekend of celebration. There will also be performances of Lebanese folk dances, singers, a band and an exhibit of all things Lebanon. So spend your weekend meandering in and out of the tents, and take in the sights and smells of Lebanon---while still in Halifax. Be sure to drop in during the evenings, as a day full of friendliness and food can't help but end in dancing circles around the community centre. (HG)

Natal Day Festival

July 30-August 3

Believe it or not, this year will be the 114th edition of the Alexander Keith's Natal Day Festival, inaugurated way back in 1895. On Monday, August 3, you can watch the requisite parade downtown from 10am, crossing over to Dartmouth via the Macdonald Bridge, ending at Sullivan Pond. And you can expect fireworks off the Macdonald Bridge on Saturday evening and at Lake Banook on Monday. There'll be concerts at the Dartmouth and Halifax waterfronts, the big Chickenfoot show at Citadel Hill (see the concert listings on page 18 for more detail) road races, talent shows and free pancake breakfasts. On paper it sounds a lot like Canada Day, except it's over a long weekend. With more beer. (CK)

Halifax Pride Festival

July 19-23

Celebrate 21 years of the proverbial rainbow at this year's Halifax Pride Festival. Catch the songwriter's showcase featuring Christina Martin, Kim Wempe, Rae Spoon, Rich Aucoin and a surprise guest (July 24). "I love pride celebrations in general," says Spoon. "It is such a great thing to see all of the queer people out celebrating diversity. It's also a good way to accidentally run into people who you know." Fresh off his European tour, Spoon will be in town hosting a two-week long songwriter's workshop with the Youth Project, as well as performing at various pride events. Be sure to head to the Garrison Grounds after the parade on Saturday, July 25 for Under the Big Top, featuring explosive performances by The Cliks and Hidden Cameras. Also check out WetSpot's 5th Anniversary bash (July 25, venue TBA) and SheDog's Pussy Playhouse (July 23, SeaDogs Bathhouse). (SWC)

Halifax Seaport BeerFest

August 8

Having so many food-related festivals every summer, it's only fitting that Halifax would host an entire fest for tasting---and toasting---beer. The Halifax Seaport Beerfest saw more than 1,500 people come out last summer---on a stormy day, no less---and this year the event's organizers are hoping for more than 2,000 beer-lovers to head out and wet their whistles. There are two beer-tasting sessions: the first from 2pm to 5pm, and the second from 7pm to 10pm. You can find the festival at the Halifax Seaport, sandwiched between Pier 20/21's building and the Immigration Annex on Marginal Road. A canopy of tents will keep beer drinkers dry no matter the weather, and tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door. Each ticket includes a souvenir glass with which to taste-test beer from more than 45 brewers. Sociable! (HG)

Alfresco Filmfesto

July 24-August 28

With the destruction/reconstruction of the Electropolis building, this year the the outdoor summer movie festival has been forced to move down the harbourfront. With a new 30-foot inflatable, transportable screen---you can get a first look at it when they set it up at Bedford Days and Sackville Days, June 25-28---the ninth Festo will actually be happening indoors this year, at Pier 20. Festival representative Cristin Fraser points out the space has big windows facing Georges Island, so it still feels like you're outside, the benefit being that you won't have to miss your favourite film if the weather inevitably turns ugly. Schedule is as follows: July 24: Mamma Mia, July 31: Harold & Maude, August 7: Dead Poets Society, August 14: The Breakfast Club, August 21: Walt Disney's Peter Pan and August 28: Pulp Fiction. (CK)

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party/Home is Where You Hang Your Hat

August 13

As the great Bruce Frisko said once on Live at 5: "Hats really are quite the fashion accessory, if you think about it." Assuming the newsman meant what he said, this summer at the Fisherman's Life Museum, everything's coming up Frisko. On August 13, the museum will be hosting a Mad Hatter's Tea Party---yep, that's a tea party that's based around wearing hats. Show up at the FLM (58 Navy Pool Loop) wearing your fanciest head-covering finery (be it beanie, bonnet or ball cap), and the folks there will serve you sandwiches, blueberry grunt, blueberry buckle, rhubarb juice, tea and coffee. The museum only fits 20 to 25 people, but if weather's good, the shindig will move outside to accommodate more. Plus, for the entire month of August, the museum will also be hosting Home is Where You Hang Your Hat, an exhibit featuring vintage and antique hats gathered from the Jeddore Harbour community, including a top hat made out of beaver, and five hats that once belonged to Bertha Myers, whose husband Edward was born in the museum back in the 1800s, when it was still a typical inshore fisherman's home. (LM)

Halifax Zombie Walk 2009

August 15

Call it performance art, call it a gory nerdfest, call it what you will---the zombie walk is a phenomenon. It's taken place in cities around the world for years now, including Pittsburgh, Brisbane, London and Toronto, with people dressing up as ambulatory cadavers and wandering through town. There's even something called World Zombie Day, which was October 26, 2008, though it appears that this year it might be happening on October 11. (Reports vary, and zombies aren't always the most organized.) However, we can reliably report that on Saturday, August 15, Halifax will be lousy with zombies. According to the Facebook Group page, the route isn't finalized, but it should go something like this: "We'll be starting at 1pm in the graveyard at Camp Hill, then off through the gardens, down Spring Garden, to the boardwalk (but probably not on it), then end up back at the Old Burying Ground on Barrington (St. Paul's Cemetary) for a sweet zombified gathering." A series of zombie rules are posted as well, including no jaywalking, no violence, no actual brain-eating (boo!), no blood-smearing and no scaring of kids or old ladies. With over 800 committed zombies (well, as committed as anyone who clicks "attending" on Facebook) it should be a good, hideous crowd. (CK)

Clam Harbour Beach Sandcastle & Sand sculpture Contest

August 16

Clam Harbour beach is giving you the best excuse ever to barefoot it in the sand and act like a kid again. The annual Sandcastle Contest draws hundreds of participants and thousands of spectators, and everyone's welcome to build their dreamscape, be it Gollum from Lord of the Rings or a replica of Paul McCartney---a dedication for visiting us, of course. Sculptors arrive at 8am to begin their masterpieces, and there will be activities for family and friends to enjoy while the art making takes place. You can build as a team, or fly solo; whichever suits your sand-sculpting fancy. I'm told real sandcastles are actually pretty rare entries in this contest---go check it out yourself to find out. (HG)

Select Nova Scotia's Incredible Picnic

August 23

Shake out your picnic blanket and grab that basket---Nova Scotia's Incredible Picnic is coming back this summer. It's the signature event of the Department of Agriculture's Select Nova Scotia program, which is the province's "buy local" campaign to promote local produce and products. Event organizer Jennifer Reynolds had the idea planted in her head when she was in France for Bastille Day and saw that the French celebrated with a country-wide picnic. Back on this side of the Atlantic, the event takes place all over the province, and Nova Scotians are encouraged to bring a picnic basket from home carrying produce from their local areas. Producers and chefs will also be on site with their own delicious goodies, while local musicians and family activities are being planned for the big day. Halifax's picnic will be at the Garrison Grounds, but other locations are still being determined. Check Select Nova Scotia's website for details, as events tend to be organized just a few weeks beforehand. (HG)

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