If you hail from the Midwest, you're familiar with rib cook-offs, homecoming days, and the county fairs that make our region great. Summertime traditions like these belong to the old guard of food festivals, where funnel cakes and sauce-covered ribs were fancy, finger-licking good pieces of nostalgia to be enjoyed under the midway lights. These days, a new ilk of food-centric outdoor events are thriving with new concepts announced for 2017.
Kristian Campana has been documenting festivals in Ohio and surrounding states at www.ohiofestivals.net since 2010. He's personally reviewed over 400 festivals in the area, many focusing on ethnic cuisine. One festival that Campana is especially looking forward to is the Cleveland Asian Festival (clevelandasianfestival.org), scheduled to set up shop in Asiatown May 20-21 with food vendors representing the entire Asian continent and two stages of performances to enjoy.
Other classic ethnic festivals that will return this year include the Tremont Greek Festival (tremontgreekfest.com), slated to take place May 27-30 at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, and the Cleveland Russian Festival (clevelandrussianfestival.org), which heads to a new home in Parma July 28-30 at German Central. Expect food, beverage, music and dancing from each respective heritage along with some of the sweetest homemade baklava on the market.
Taste of Lakewood (tasteoflakewood.com), which started off as an indoor event held at the Clifton Club and later the Screw Factory, will celebrate its 14th year come June 11 at another new location, Madison Park. This year's benefit to raise funds for the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce scholarship program will boast new establishments like LBM, Salt and Woodstock BBQ, along with 25 other mainstays from this restaurant-rich neck of the woods.
Taste of Tremont (tasteoftremont.com), now in its 15th year, is coming off a strong year when some 35,000 visitors hit up 65 different food and beverage vendors. This year's event, billed as Tremont's neighborhood street festival, falls on July 16. Taste of Summer (scenetasteofsummer.com), a Flats East Bank and Cleveland Scene event, returns May 26-27 and features Alley Cat Oyster Bar, Big Bang Cleveland, Bold Food and Drink, Coastal Taco and Flipside Burger and will turn the East Bank into a stage for entertainment and entrepreneurship.
Cleveland VegFest (clevelandvegan society.org) showcases the newest trends in vegan living, attracting more than 7,000 attendees last year. This year, the free event will take place on June 3 at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. Some of the food participants this year will include Aladdin's Eatery, Poison Berry Bakery and Helio Terra Vegan Café, among others, with cooking demonstrations and speakers scheduled throughout the day.
These classics will join brand new food festivals like the Tater Tots and Beer Festival (tatertotfestival.com), rolling into Voinovich Bicentennial Park on June 10. This national touring event is three hours of all-you-can-eat tots and craft beer. Add this one to the list of single-item food celebrations that also include Cleveland Pizza Fest (clevelandpizzafest.com) June 23-25 and the National Hamburger Festival (hamburgerfestival.com) in Akron Aug. 12-13. Cheese Fest will pair local and international cheeses with wine and music. That event is scheduled for Aug. 11 and is presented by Taste CLE (tastecle.com).
Organized by the Hospitality Management Center of Excellence at Cuyahoga Community College, the inaugural Cleveland Eats (tri-c.edu/cleveland-eats) is poised to become the pinnacle of annual food festivals. Under guidance from some the area's top chefs, the three-day event will take place in the heart of downtown Sept. 14-16 and feature chef-driven restaurants, food trucks, craft beer and cooking demos and competitions.