May is the month when Cincinnati’s festival circuit really takes off. With the warmer weather, there are so many outdoor things to do, and festivals rank high on the list. The weather can still be a little iffy, of course, so you’ll find a good mix of both indoor and outdoor festivals taking place this month.
There are celebrations of culture and music, several dedicated to all things edible and drinkable, and the first of many church festivals. Speaking of, we’ll be publishing our list of church festivals soon, so if you’d like yours included, send the details to [email protected] with “church festivals” in the subject line.
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Here’s a look at the biggest and best festivals happening each weekend this month.
WEEKEND OF MAY 6-8
Cincy-Cinco Latin Festival
After a three-year, pandemic-related absence, the sounds of Latin America will fill the air this weekend as Cincy-Cinco takes over Fountain Square (520 Vine St., Downtown). The family-friendly festival showcases aspects of Latino culture, values and traditions. It opens at noon Saturday, with an official welcoming parade taking place at 4 p.m. that includes a Conga parade, pinatas, mascots, music and more. You can enjoy authentic Latin food from a number of area restaurants.
Live music features heavily at this Latin heritage festival, with everything from pop, rock, salsa and merengue, with headliners al Son del Iya on Saturday and Tropicoso on Sunday. As you’d expect, you won’t be able to keep your feet from moving to the beat, and there will be ample opportunity to dance as well as see homegrown dance groups like Cincy Brazil Samba Dance perform. Cincy-Cinco runs from noon-11 p.m. Saturday and from noon-6 p.m. Sunday. cincy-cinco.com.
Asian Food Festival
The region’s largest celebration of Asian culture and cuisine takes place 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday along Court Street Plaza, Downtown. Enjoy sampling the Asian food scene in the form of small plates typically priced between $2 and $8. More than 35 regional restaurants representing 13 different Asian countries will be serving up familiar and not-so-familiar dishes for you to try.
You’ll also find live entertainment, local craft and Asian beer, and lots of family-friendly activities throughout the weekend. Admission is free. asianfoodfest.org.
Over at Coney Island (6201 Kellogg Ave., Anderson Township), the Appalachian Festival returns for it’s 51st year. Dedicated to honoring the traditions of the communities and people living within the Appalachian Mountains region, this festival’s highlights include traditional dance, music, arts and crafts and, naturally, food. Enjoy fried taters, biscuits ‘n’ gravy, country ham, mustard greens and plenty more good ol’ down-home cooking.
This is also the place to find unique arts and crafts, everything from leatherworking and pottery to jewelry and handmade walking sticks, brooms and canes. You can watch demonstrations of traditional mountain crafts like seat caning, spinning and weaving, and listen to old-time music, bluegrass and storytellers. There’s a stage dedicated to dancing, and new this year is a Saturday night dance party that begins at 7 p.m.
The Appalachian Festival runs from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $12, $6 for ages 55-up, $3 for ages 6-11 and free for ages 5 and under. appalachianfestival.org.
Rivergrass Music Festival
Another place you can hear some great bluegrass this weekend is at the Rivergrass Music Festival. Colorado-based progressive jam-bluegrass band Yonder Mountain String Band headlines the festival, with a host of other fusion-string and jamgrass bands, including Lil’ Smokies, Armchair Boogie and Dayton, Ohio’s wonderfully named Stringus Khan. Doors open at 4 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Riverfront Live, 4343 Kellogg Ave., East End. Tickets are $25. cincyticket.com.
WEEKEND OF MAY 13-15
Smoke on the River BBQ Fest
If you are a fan of barbeque, this is a festival you do not want to miss. There’s a pig roast, for starters. And something called the “Grippo Sundae,” which includes seasoned pork, beer cheese, coleslaw and BBQ Grippo’s potato chips. You know you wanna try that! There’s also pulled pork sandwiches, cherrywood smoked bacon-wrapped meatballs, brisket, pork belly and non-pork barbeque offerings like chicken and turkey. You’ll find side dishes such as mac and cheese, baked beans, potato salad and coleslaw, and a multitude of desserts that include Kentucky bourbon cake, smoked peach cobbler and cheesecake bites.
Musical entertainment includes Vinyl Countdown and Dog House on Friday, Elementree Livity Project, Swan and Marsha Brady on Saturday, and Joey Said No, Model Behavior and 3 Day Rule on Sunday. Smoke on the River BBQ Fest takes place at Covington Plaza, 144 Madison Ave. from 5-11 p.m. Friday, noon-11 p.m. Saturday and noon-9 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. cincinnatifestivalsandevents.com.
Real Taco Fest
The Real Taco Fest is your opportunity to try tacos from over a dozen local vendors, including Mazunte, Condado Tacos, El Barril Mexican Sports Bar, Mesa Loca and more. And what pairs better with a taco than margaritas or a beer? You’ll find both for purchase from Karrikin Spirits and Fifty West Brewing. The festival takes place on Saturday, May 14, at Smale Riverfront Park (168 Mehring Way, Downtown)
There are two sessions to choose from: noon-4 p.m. and 6-10 p.m. Each session is limited to 1,000 attendees. It works like this: you pay an entrance fee of $10, free for ages 10-under, and once inside, you buy food and drink tickets $4 each. These tickets can be redeemed for tacos, sides and drinks. A “super taco pack” provides 11 food and drink tickets for $40. realtacofest.com.
Loveland Food Truck Rally
Taking place at Shopper’s Haven Plaza (675 Loveland Madeira Road, Loveland), the Loveland Food Truck Rally runs from 3-10 p.m. Saturday, May 14. There are food options from more than 25 food trucks, including Best Thing Smokin’, Chicken Mac, Off the Hook, the Poutine Machine and Dine-in Hawaiian, plus beer, wine, seltzers, water and sodas.
Enjoy live music with Alter Ego, and a children’s play area with inflatables and activities like face painting. It’s free to attend, and most food items cost $6-$9. lmrchamberalliance.org.
WEEKEND OF MAY 20-22
International Wine Festival
This non-profit festival celebrates its 31st year, featuring a spectacular selection of wine from around the world, all in one place. Whether you are a novice wine drinker or a connoisseur, there is something for everyone. The weekend starts with a winery dinner series held at fine dining restaurants on Thursday, May 19. Each upscale restaurant hosts a specific winery and creates a one-night-only special five-course meal paired with the select wines. Then, on Friday and Saturday, the popular grand tastings take place at Duke Energy Convention Center (525 Elm St., Downtown). Grand tastings give you the opportunity to sample a variety of quality wines and food while chatting with industry experts from around the world.
Grand tastings are sold in sessions. Friday’s session runs from 7-9:30 p.m., while Saturday’s sessions are from 2-4:30 p.m. and 6:30-9 p.m. Tickets cost between $70 and $90, depending on the day and time. There’s an additional option available during each session called “The Collectors Tasting Room.” This event costs an additional $40-$45 and includes seven high-end wines.
Also on Saturday is the charity auction and luncheon, which takes place from 9:30 a.m.-noon at the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel, 35 W. Fifth St., Downtown. It runs $135 and includes a gourmet lunch paired with wines, and the chance to bid on large format bottles of wine, limited releases and other rare wines. Proceeds benefit more than 30 different local charities. winefestival.com.
Oxford Wine & Craft Beer Festival
Another wine festival happens at Oxford’s Uptown Memorial Park on High Street. Roam rows of wine booths and art vendors in the heart of the city’s historic business district from 2-10 p.m. Saturday, May 21. Not a fan of liquid grapes? There’s also a beer garden, live music, tasty treats and family fun. Your $30 ticket includes a wristband, five tasting tickets and a souvenir glass. Additional tasting tickets can be purchased at the event for $5 for two, $10 for five. oxfordwinefestival.com.
Our Lady of Victory Church Festival
This church festival takes place 6-11 p.m. Friday, 5:30-11 p.m. Saturday and 3-10 p.m. Sunday. You’ll find games of skill and chance, games for kids and plenty of festival food. Live music is also a staple at this festival, with this year’s offerings being Doghouse on Friday, Bobby McClendon on Saturday and the Menus on Sunday. Our Lady of Victory is located at 810 Neeb Road, Delhi Township. 513-922-4460.
The longest-running choral festival in North America takes place from May 20-28 at Music Hall (1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine). Featuring the May Festival Chorus, comprised of 120 of the region’s most talented singers, and the May Festival Youth Chorus, who lift their voices in song to the music of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
This year, the festival explores works from the Americas, with both established and new voices telling the stories. Along with musical programs, there is also a series called May Minis, designed especially for children ages 0-12, taking place from 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, May 21. There’s also a free concert at 12:10 p.m. Tuesday, May 24, at Christ Church Cathedral, as part of the “Music Live at Lunch” series. May Festival opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20, with John Adams conducting El Nino. Enjoy Bernstein’s “Candide” at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 22, South American Epics conducted by Juanjo Mena at 7:30 p.m. May 27, and finishing at 7:30 p.m. May 28 with Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” May Festival tickets range in price from $14-$89. mayfestival.com.
Big River Get Down
David Shaw of the celebrated Americana band the Revivalists was born and raised in Hamilton, and he’s a long-time champion of the city. Each year, Shaw hosts an outdoor music festival at RiversEdge Amphitheatre (116 Dayton St.) at Marcum Park. Shaw’s musical connections bring in a good mix of big-name acts as well as up-and-comers.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Friday with music kicking off an hour later with Chris Gelbuda, followed by Judith Hill. David Shaw performs solo to cap off the night at 9:30 p.m. On Saturday, doors open at 2:30 p.m. with a lineup that features Raelyn Nelson Band at 3:30 p.m., Karina Rykman at 5, Maggie Rose at 6:30 and Grammy-nominated rockers the Record Company at 8 p.m. The Revivalists headline the night with a 9:30 p.m. performance. General admission is $40 on Friday, $75 for Saturday and $80 for a 2-day pass. bigrivergetdown.com.
Amateur geologists, mineralogists and fossil collectors convene the weekend of May 21-22 at Sharonville Convention Center (11355 Chester Road) for Geo Fair, celebrating minerals, gems, fossils, jewelry and more. A number of local museums and organizations will be on hand, as will gem and mineral dealers, and family-friendly activities include geode cracking, games and Scout merit badge assistance. Kids ages 12 and under get free fossils, and there’s a dedicated swap area, too.
Do you have a gemstone or jewelry you’d like identified? What about a rock, mineral or meteorite? You can get it done for free each day, and there’s a fossil identification booth as well. Adult tickets to Geo Fair are $10, $15 for a 2-day pass. Children are admitted for $4, and scouts in uniform get in free. Geo Fair runs from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. geofair.com.
MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND, MAY 28-30
Taste of Cincinnati
We Cincinnatians love a good food festival, and there’s no better food fest in the country than Taste of Cincinnati, taking place May 28-30 along Fifth St., Downtown. Featuring more than 65 restaurants, food trucks and Findlay Market vendors, you’ll be spoiled for choice with over 300 menu items to choose from. The festival takes place along Fifth St., from Main Street to the ramps of I-71 and Columbia Parkway, and includes live music and other entertainment. tasteofcincinnati.com.