Fun Ohio festivals!

Two men re-create a duel with swords.

Ohio Renaissance Festival

Ohio Renaissance Festival

Beginning Labor Day weekend, the woods at Renaissance Park become enchanted as the clock turns back to 16th-century England. Step into the village of Willy Nilly-on-the-Wash, where history blends with fantasy in a joyous mix as strolling minstrels, swashbuckling pirates, fair maidens, kilt-clad gents, and more beckon, “Come play.”

The line between audience and performers is often a blurry one; many visitors dress in period garb as they enjoy Queen Elizabeth I’s royal wave in the daily parade; laugh-out-loud shows of silliness and zany feats; and full-armored jousting as it was done 400 years ago.

There’s an array of vendors hawking anything from period costumes, elf ears, and fairy wings to flower garlands and knight’s gear, as well as crafts and artisans’ offerings such as pewter and leather mugs, stained glass, jewelry, hair ornaments, and instruments. Food’s also plentiful — giant roasted turkey legs, and stew in a bread bowl are popular — and there are demonstrations everywhere.

Washboard Music Festival

What do your great-grandparents, John Lennon, and the Hocking Hills have in common? Washboards, of course.

Back in the proverbial good old days, washboards were a household staple. Americans used their corrugated metal surfaces not only for rubbing clothes clean, but also for making music. The style of music created on washboards and other improvised instruments — including spoons, jugs, and cowbells — is called skiffle, which blends elements of American folk, jazz, blues, country, and other sounds. In the 1950s, skiffle was all the rage in England, and none other than future Beatle John Lennon started a skiffle band, complete with a washboard player.

Today, the last U.S. washboard manufacturer — the Columbus Washboard Company — is in downtown Logan, where, fittingly enough, the nation’s only festival dedicated to washboard music takes place every Father’s Day weekend. The event’s unique repertoire of toe-tapping entertainment includes such acts as the Steel City Rovers (Celtic), The Wayfarers (Appalachian fiddle songs), Little Roy & Lizzie (traditional bluegrass), and Washboard Hank, a popular Canadian artist who plays country and contemporary tunes on instruments that include a banjo, guitar, kazoo, and his famous “Stradivarius Washboard.”

Avon Heritage Duck Tape Festival

Duct tape is the silver-colored adhesive material that has been used for everything from quick household fixes to helping the Apollo 13 astronauts safely return to earth. During World War II, U.S. soldiers likened duct tape’s water-resistant qualities to water rolling off a duck’s back and nicknamed it “duck tape.” The moniker, well, stuck. Today, the Cleveland suburb of Avon is known as the world’s Duck Tape capital because it’s home to ShurTech Brands, which markets the popular tapes.

Every June, the Avon Heritage Duck Tape Festival attracts some 60,000 duct tape fans by showcasing the ingenuity and creativity that the versatile product inspires. This year’s construction-themed event includes arts and crafts; a Saturday parade; and a fashion show, in which contestants model clothing made from duct tape.

The event is free, and in addition to live entertainment, it features favorite local foods. Tip: Go early, because each day, the first 500 festival-goers get free rolls of Duck Tape.

Gathering at Garst

The Gathering at Garst may be less than a decade old, but it already has become one of Ohio’s unique treasures. “It’s family-friendly, relaxing, and affordable, and the grounds are beautiful with lots of shade,” Chairperson Jenny Clark says.

The Gathering at Garst benefits the Darke County Historical Society’s Garst Museum, and takes place on the last weekend in July at both the museum’s Greenville campus and an adjoining park that hosts the festival’s Living History Encampment. Reenactors wear period clothing and demonstrate historic crafts from 1750 through 1865, and besides lively — and loud! — cannon firings, this year’s Encampment will include a special candlelight tour.

Other attractions include a concert by the Beach Boys tribute band, Sounds of Summer; curated works by regional artists; horse-drawn carriage rides; and exhibits at the Garst Museum that range from the momentous 1795 Treaty of Greene Ville to Darke County-born sharpshooter Annie Oakley.