Whether it is a food, film or art festival, all the good events swing through New York City at one time or another, leaving us residents to simply sit back and wait for them to come to us. Touring fairs and festivals are a huge example of this, condensing a wealth of art, food, culture, and other offerings for New Yorkers' perusal for the price of a one-day ticket or week-long badge. Here, our list of picks for fairs and fests worth checking out in 2011 truly offer something for everyone, and perhaps a good excuse to entice old friends to town, too.
JANUARY: The second annual Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ Festival makes its first nationwide stop in New York City this year, on January 29, to offer a full day of "beer sippin', bourbon tastin', music listenin', cigar smokin', and barbecue eatin'." Admission buys ticket holders a souvenir glass for unlimited sampling from beer and bourbon vendors. Each session includes 10 or more food tasting stations for participants to munch on famed recipes for pulled pork, BBQ ribs, brisket, gourmet bacon, collard greens, baked beans, smoked meats and sausages, while bluegrass bands provide an appropriate soundtrack on the main stage. Master distillers, brew masters, and Deep South pit masters offer seminars, too, and attendees may choose from two $85 sessions: the "Bacon Bash" earlier in the day, or the "Whole Hog" session at night.
FEBRUARY: Fans of independent theater will want to check out the Frigid Festival, which brings together 30 independent theater companies to put on 150 hour-long performances in three Lower East Side theaters (The Kraine Theater, The Red Room, and UNDER St. Marks) over 12 days. One hundred percent of the box office revenue goes to each show's production company, making this yearly event truly supportive of local theater. The festival runs from February 23 through March 6. Browse listings and buy tickets to individual performances at frigidnewyork.info.
MARCH: Over the last decade, SCOPE Art Show has grown to become the largest, most global contemporary art fair in the world, and makes its flagship New York stop this year from March 2-6. This year, organizers will present 50 international galleries from four continents and 16 countries, in a variety of solo and thematic group shows. Admission is $20, or just $10 for current students, and its focus on emerging artists and collectors makes for an enjoyably inclusive instead of a haughty atmosphere.
APRIL: The world-renowned New York International Auto Show returns to Javits Convention Center this year from April 22 through May 1. Car junkies will delight in the sneak peeks given at brand new '11 and '12 production models, alternative fuel advancements, and more creative concept models than ever presented before. Tickets are just $14 for adults or $4 for children, and may be purchased in advance online.
MAY: Previously an end-of-the-year affair, the Blip Music Festival moves to May this year, to again offer high-energy, low-res performances from more than two dozen of the world's most talented and creative electronic musicians and visualists. The annual event is organized by 8bitpeoples (an artists collective dedicated to exploring the audiovisual style of low-bit video games and home computers), in cooperation with The Tank (a Tribeca-based non-profit who has aimed to bring compelling, offbeat cultural productions to New York City for more than five years). Events are consistently all ages. More details will be announced soon at blipfestival.org.
JUNE: The fifth annual NYC Food Film Festival celebrates the world's favorite foods by screening documentaries, features, and short films while co-directors George Motz and Harry Hawk serve up the food guests are watching. For example, a screening of Ron Mann's 2009 film "Know Your Mushrooms" was followed by a 10-course mushroom tasting menu from Next Iron Chef star Brad Farmerie, and following Joe York's "Whole Hog" screening, more than 1000 New Yorkers feasted on whole hog barbecue. Awards are also given at the end of the fest to Best Feature, Best Short, Best Super-Short, Best Film Made in New York, Food Filmmaker of the Year, and Audience Choice Award. Ticket proceeds help to support the Food Bank for New York City.
JULY: New York Restaurant Week comes just twice a year, in January and July. Use the opportunity to try lavish two- or three-course lunches or dinners at a number of renowned restaurants across the borough that you might not normally be able to afford. The list of participating establishments is posted online a week or so before the week begins, allowing diners to browse the actual menus beforehand as well as make advance reservations. A great date night option!
AUGUST: The New York International Fringe Festival celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2011, taking place from August 12-28 this year. This event holds the distinction of being the largest multi-arts festival in North America, with more than 200 companies from all over the world performing approximately 1,200 shows for 16 days in more than 20 venues citywide. Per-show admission is $15 for each indie theater or performance art performance, or attendees may purchase five-show, ten-show, or unlimited passes to save money.
SEPTEMBER: Beer geeks rejoice as the New York Craft Beer Week returns for its third year running. To participate, thirsty ale fans purchase an official passport to take to bars participating in the festival to order discounted drinks from its menu of featured craft breweries. Fans of the fest enjoy the opportunity to sample rare, sometimes small batch beers not normally found easily in the Big Apple. Exact dates of this year's fest are TBA.
OCTOBER: There's no more appropriate month for a scary movie fest than in October, of course. This year, the week-long New York City Horror Film Festival returns in time for Halloween with more than 50 screenings, which will also be considered for awards like Best Feature Film, Best Short Film, Best Cinematography, Best Special Effects, and more. Established in 2001, the festival has grown since then to become a world-recognized event attracting filmmakers and press from all over the globe. Exact dates of the 2011 fest are still TBA.
NOVEMBER: Since its founding in 1997 by French entrepreneurs Sylvie Douce and François Jeantet, the Chocolate Show has grown to become one of the most popular events devoted to chocolate nationwide -- even expanding to appear now in Paris, Japan, Shanghai, Madrid, Cairo, and Moscow. Each year, more than 65 world-class confectioners convene to showcase their creative approaches to the candy and let attendees sample some of their finest treats. Also on site will be related events such as book signings, cooking demonstrations, and fun-filled activities for chocolate-loving children, too. Precise dates still TBA for 2011.
DECEMBER: Care to take in your dose of culture with a side of local history? Since 2007, the Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival presents film, literature, and other arts programs with inherent connections to Brooklyn an its history. Many of its documentary and feature film screenings, local author readings, and other events are free and open to the public. Exact dates for 2011 are TBA, though film submissions are currently being accepted for consideration by the festival's program coordinators.
What fairs and festivals have you attended and enjoyed? Which are you most looking forward to in 2011? Let us know in the comments!