Party All Summer

Here’s why fest season is the best season in South County


Piping, dancing, and ancient feats of strength are what’s in store at the Rhode Island Scottish Highland Festival. What kind of feats of strength? We’re talking heavy athletics, like hammer throws and caber tosses (basically ridiculously strong people whipping tree trunks across a field). If that, plus performances by traditional pipe and drum bands, don’t make you feel like you’ve left Rhode Island behind and wound up on a Scottish moor we don’t know what will. June 9, Washington County Fair Grounds, Richmond

Look! Up in the sky! The Rhode Island Air Show is barreling down the highway to the danger zone for another weekend of high flying aerobatics from ace pilots. Satisfy your need for speed with performances from the US Navy’s Blue Angels, and see vintage fighter planes from WWII and the Korean War. June 9-10, Quonset Airport, North Kingstown

June in South County tastes like strawberry shortcake. Celebrate the annual strawberry harvest with period-clad reenactors and docents at Smith’s Castle’s Strawberry Festival. Shortcake is king, after all, so show some respect. June 16, North Kingstown

Voted the fifth best fine arts festival in the country last year, the Wickford Arts Festival brings artists of all disciplines to historic Wickford Village for two days of art and entertainment. Over 200 artists from across New England and beyond come out for the festival, which celebrates 56 years of creativity this summer. July 7-8, Wickford

If there’s anything better than a rock show, it’s a rock show for a good cause. This year’s SummerFest is helping those in need through The Hunger Bus, a non-profit committed to ending hunger. Tribute acts Hey Nineteen and Another Tequila Sunrise will take the stage to play classic rock hits from Steely Dan and The Eagles, with folk artist Chakulla and comedian Mike Murray performing as well. July 15, North Kingstown Town Beach

Soaring into its 40th year is the South County Balloon Festival. Sure, they’ll have food, rides, and a rock climbing wall, but what you’re really there for is the fleet of balloons. See the peaceful dirigibles light up for the Dusk Hot Air Balloon Glow or hop in the basket for a tethered balloon ride. Don’t forget to stick around for the fireworks! July 20-22, URI Athletics Field, Kingston

Last year it was decided that there was just too much fleet to bless, so the annual Blessing of the Fleet Festival expanded into a three-day affair! The seafood festival will run Thursday through Saturday in Memorial Square, followed by a 10-mile race on Friday and, of course, the actual Blessing of the Fleet in the port of Galilee on Saturday. Our suggestion? Eat a ton of seafood, run it all off, then eat a bunch more seafood as you watch the brightly decorated ships sail by. July 26-28, Narragansett

For the classically inclined, save the date for the Kingston Chamber Music Festival. Celebrating 30 years of established, international musicians playing alongside up-and-coming young talent, the Chamber Music Festival will feature the music of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart and more. July 25-August 5, University of Rhode Island

Ballard’s has summer jams happening all season long, but if life is forcing you to pick and choose when you can get out to the island we’ve got three dates you should keep in mind. On July 5 will have you dusting off your boots and spurs for Country Fest; August 13 moves island vibes up a few latitudinal degrees for Reggae Fest; and September 8 sends the summer off in style with RockFest. Decisions, decisions. Block Island

Chowder. Stuffies. Lobster, lobster, and more lobster. The state’s best seafood brings its A-game to the Charlestown Seafood Festival, which is basically heaven on Earth for a New England-vore (that’s someone whose food pyramid is almost 100% fried varieties of shellfish and haddock). Rides and fireworks are part of the fun, too, but be sure to take a bite of something salty on your way to and from. August 3-5, Ninigret Park, Charlestown

ConserFest is music on a mission. Back for another rocking day of music on Block Island is a grassroots music festival dedicated to raising money and awareness for conservation efforts, with proceeds going towards keeping Block Island the natural treasure that it is. This year’s festival will be headlined by The Rowan Brothers, with more performers to be announced throughout the summer. August 5, The Narragansett Inn, Block Island

The Washington County Fair has everything you could possibly want out of a big, old school summer festival. Livestock competitions, a ferris wheel and carnival rides, a pie eating contest, sunflower seed spitting competitions, and an epically muddy tug of war. As for the music, some of the country world’s brightest stars are setting up shop in RI for five days, with performers like Lanco, Stephanie Quayle, and Mickey Lamantia taking the fair stage. August 15-19, Washington County Fair Grounds

The New England Quahog Fest has a lot going for it. Think a sea creature parade, kayak races, and a mermaid photoshoot. Food trucks, local brews, and live music – including performances from The Copacetics, Navy Band Northeast, and The Super Chief Trio – make this a slam dunk way to spend a Sunday in August. And did we mention the Mermen of Wickford Calendar? Hot stuff indeed! August 26, North Kingstown Town Beach

As summer winds down – say it ain’t so! – there’s one final blowout to look forward to, the Rhythm & Roots Festival. Last year introduced “glamping” to the three-day festival, giving festivalgoers who want the under-the-stars experience without having to do the work a chance to rent out a pre-pitched tent complete with cots, a lantern, and a private toilet (of course the DIY route is still on the table). But really it’s about the music, and this year’s lineup will feature Taj Mahal Trio, Steve Earle & the Dukes, and RI’s only acclaimed storyteller Len Cabral among lots of others. We can’t think of a better way to send off our favorite season. August 31-September 2, Ninigret Park, Charlestown