If you like festivals and fun for all ages, Howard County, Md., has plenty to entice you this summer. Live music, a film festival, a one-man circus, art created as you watch, plays performed in a stone “castle,” and a fairy-tale farm are among the rollicking options in this central Maryland locality.
The Columbia Festival of the Arts, set June 14-30, attracts 20,000 attendees annually, according to the festival’s David Phillips.
Kicking off events is the free LakeFest Weekend June 14-16 on the downtown Columbia lakefront. Music of various cultures and genres, including rock, funk, soul, R&B, folk, pop, bluegrass, country and jazz will be presented.
Performers include Aztec Sun, De Sanguashington, Relevator Hill, Alanna Royal, Columbia Jazz Band, Mr. Gabe and the Circle Time All Stars, Glenelg Jazz Ensemble, School of Rock Columbia, Speaker of the House, Dogo, Marielle Kraft, Ocho De Bastos, Six String Soldiers, The Sidleys, Nelly’s Echo and the Bobby Thompson Trio.
In addition, there will be an invitational fine arts and crafts show with 50 artisans, food vendors, a beer garden and children’s activities.
Bridgman | Packer Dance will have an interactive video installation at the lakefront and evening performances in downtown Columbia of “Truck,” performed inside a box truck.
Among other presentations during the course of the festival will be L’homme Cirque, a one-man, high-wire circus performed by David Dimitri; the Columbia Orchestra; the Second City comedy group; Rene Marie and Experiment in Truth; Stoop Storytelling; NPR’s “Selected Shorts” onstage; and milestone anniversary celebrations of the Columbia Film Society and Howard County Poetry and Literature Society.
A highlight included this year will be the Columbia Film Festival June 27-29, organized by Baltimore-born actor and filmmaker Robert Neal Marshall. A preview day on June 26 incorporates a family feature film shown at Merriweather Post Pavilion.
About 38 films, chosen from 90 submissions, will have public showings. Feature films, shorts, documentaries, animation and world cinema will be among competitive entries from the Maryland region, across the U.S. and several countries. Screenings will be at Howard Community College and other locations.
A number of filmmakers and cast members will be on hand for panel discussions, Q&A sessions and VIP parties. An awards ceremony and “Best of Fest” screenings will be on June 29. (columbiafestival.org).
By day and by night
Ellicott City will be the scene for two outdoor festivals in unusual settings.
Paint it!, a plein air paint-out, takes place June 28-30 on Main Street followed by an exhibition and sale July 1-Aug. 9 at the Howard County Center for the Arts at 8510 High Ridge Road.
Twenty-four juried artists and others will set up their easels on the sidewalks and paint what they see. You can observe and interact with the artists.
One artist is Duane Lutsko, who teaches plein air painting. He said the picturesque, historic town — still undergoing construction and restoration from last year’s flooding — is a good setting for the representational art he favors.
“My work focuses on the dichotomy between the manmade and the natural world,” he wrote in an email. “I am drawn to and find uncommon beauty in the mundane and environmentally troubling imagery we routinely look at but rarely see.”
Lutsko said plein art offers both challenges and rewards. The artist is in a “race against the changing light,” works within a limited time period, and is forced to “re-see” and unify a “moving breathing landscape.” Yet, he said, the experience is liberating, promoting “fresh, spontaneous painting.”
He advises spectators to “look for what speaks to you.” (hocoarts.org).
The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company-In-the-Ruins festival also immerses you into the action with two plays performed under the stars at PFI Historic Park overlooking Ellicott City. A shuttle bus from the downtown courthouse parking lot will save you a walk up the hill.
The remnants of the Patapsco Female Institute, a Civil-War era girls’ boarding school, provide a dramatic backdrop for the company’s presentations of Shakespeare plays and other classics. Roofless stone walls, archways and a grand staircase add to the castle-like atmosphere, which has been enhanced by a drawbridge and “river.”
The spooky ruins are especially effective in presentations of a supernatural tragedy like “Macbeth” (June 7-24). This will be performed as a “movable play,” a concept pioneered by the Chesapeake company, according to the group’s Jean Thompson. Scenes take place inside the building and outdoors in the landscaped park. Don’t sit still — travel along with the actors.
Stationary staging is used in the comedy “Love’s Labour’s Lost” (June 28-July 28). For this play, a special deal allows two free tickets for children 18 and under with every adult ticket.
Thompson said attendees find the whole experience — “with the sky above you and the wind in the trees” — to be exciting. Bring a picnic, sit on chairs or blankets, or rent picnic tables. Pre-show activities for children are held on Sundays.
She said the company aims to make the plays understandable and relevant to today’s audiences.
“Shakespeare is for everyone,” she said. (chesapeakeshakespeare.com).
Once upon a time
The seventh-generation Clark family farm at 10500 Clarksville Pike near Ellicott City is in the business of selling its own meat and produce, but also has created a wonderland for families.
Meet the pigs, sheep, donkeys, chickens, emus, ducks, rabbits and more at Clark’s Elioak Petting Farm, and take a pony, train or hayride.
Go back in time to The Enchanted Forest, a major 20th-century tourist and family attraction in Ellicott City. It was Maryland’s first theme park, and the second in the nation after Disneyland. Changing times led to the park’s demise after 30 years, but the Clarks purchased, restored and moved remnants to the farm starting in 2004.
Behind the castle entrance and in the Enchanted Pine Tree Forest look for childhood delights such as Mother Goose, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, the Old Woman’s Shoe, the Three Bears’ House and Cinderella’s pumpkin coach.
Fairy tales have a happy ending, after all. (clarklandfarm.com).