Celebratory Annual Events in America’s Heartland

annual events

The Midwest features some of the most colorful, engaging events imaginable, ranging from the world-famous Chicago Blues Festival to the always-absorbing St. Louis Storytelling Festival.

These annual events give attendees a good feel for the character and personality of the cities, so many planners include them in their itineraries. Here’s a list of some of the best.

Chicago: The Chicago Blues Festival, held in June, is the largest free blues celebration in the world, offered in a city that helped define the blues.

Cincinnati: The Cincinnati Music Festival takes place in July and injects more than $110 million into the local economy.

Cleveland: Northeast Ohio’s largest annual festival is Oktoberfest, offered in September. It features plenty of strudel, schnitzel, and gemutlichkeit (good feelings).

Columbus, Ohio: The Ohio State Fair draws nearly 1 million people every summer to celebrate the state, its people and their accomplishments.

Detroit: At 2020 Ford Fireworks Detroit, held in June, 10,000 fireworks are shot from barges on the Detroit River. But there’s much more than fireworks: Music, art and food are also among the highlights.

Indianapolis: Hey, this is the Midwest, where state fairs are still lively, colorful, musical, foodie, happy spectacles, and attendance goes through the roof. The Indianapolis fair is offered in August.

Kansas City, Missouri: The Kansas City Scottish Highland Games & Celtic Festival brings a wee bi’ of Highlands games, music, food and merriment to the city every July.

Milwaukee: Summerfest is a very popular annual music festival, held at Henry Maier Festival Park, along the scenic Lake Michigan waterfront in late June and early July.

Minneapolis: The lush gardens and wildflowers of Loring Park are a beautiful backdrop for the art, music and food of Loring Park Art Festival, offered in July.

Peoria, Illinois: The Peoria Blues & Heritage Music Festival is a much anticipated event that takes place in September.

St. Louis: The art of storytelling takes on a vibrant life at the annual St. Louis Storytelling Festival, held for 10 days in April and May.

Traverse City, Michigan: Small Plates is one delicious festival, taking place in August on Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail.

Wisconsin Dells: When more than 1,200 beautifully restored classic cars roll into Wisconsin Dells in May, you know it’s time for Automotion Festival.

Read more about the Midwest’s offerings to planners in Steve Winston’s supplement, “Meeting Planner’s Dream: The Midwest Boasts a Vast Array of Top On-Site and Off-Site Venues for Groups,” in the March issue of Smart Meetings.