Dallas sees dozens of Independence Day celebrations with the traditional patriotic parades, family cookouts and fireworks shows every summer. Throughout the season there are also countless opportunities to experience less familiar celebrations that some of us have yet to branch out and try. Of course, we're not saying you should skip out on your family's Fourth of July bash (we know you'd miss the sparklers too much), but take a chance this summer and add one of these fresh cultural festivals to your to-do list. You'll get to see our community in a whole new way, and you just might find a new annual tradition.
Texas Scottish Festival and Highland Games, June 1-3, Arlington
To outsiders, Scotland often seems shrouded in mystery. Many of us wonder: What exactly is haggis? Is the Loch Ness monster Bigfoot's Scottish cousin? And just what, if anything, do Scotsmen wear under their kilts? Perhaps the answers you seek are waiting at the 21st annual Texas Scottish Festival and Highland Games, a three-day celebration of all things Scottish. No matter what you're looking for in the way of entertainment, it'll be there in some form at this massive event. The festival is jam-packed with Scottish folk music, bagpiping contests, athletic competitions, a dog show, kids' games, a whiskey tasting, Scottish country dancing, a medieval Scotland area and, no fooling, a 9,000-square-foot pub tent. Trust us, that's only a small taste of all the good stuff going down at UTA's Maverick Stadium over the weekend. You'll also be able to sample authentic Scottish foods such as haggis, Scotch eggs and bangers while browsing through tons of merchandise at the vendors' booths. And you probably don't want to miss the traditional "bonniest knees" contest, where a blindfolded female judge picks her favorite set of male knees by touch alone. Tickets are available for single days ($10-$15) or the whole blooming weekend ($25), with discounts for kids and teens, och aye. Call 800-363-SCOT or go to texasscottishfestival.com.
Italia, June 8-9, Addison
So, you're dreaming of a trip to Italy this summer. We can't blame you. Everybody wants a taste of the boot's warm weather, rich food and delicious wines, and honestly, who hasn't had some sort of fantasy involving a gondola? All you'll need to start your great adventure through the vineyards of Tuscany and the Venetian canals is a suitcase, an Italian-English dictionary and a small fortune at current exchange rates. But if you don't feel like shelling out the big bucks or sitting on a plane for 15 hours, you're in luck. For just $5 you can experience the culture and gourmet eats of Italy right here in Big D. Head to Addison Circle Park on June 9 and experience Italia, Addison's new outdoor festival that celebrates Italian culture and cuisine. Highlights include a bocce ball tournament, wine tasting, live Italian music and dancing, and puppet shows and inflatables for the kids. If you have a hankering for something a little more upscale, for $35-$45 (which includes festival admission) you can attend the delicious evening event at the Addison Conference Centre from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. June 8. This part of Italia will feature a cooking demonstration by the World Master Chef Society, and attendees will be able to sample the chefs' creations, so definitely come hungry. Call 1-800-ADDISON or visit addisontexas.net.
Gran Fiesta, July 13-15, Fort Worth
After you've partied hard on July 4, head to Fort Worth and join in a free three-day celebration that honors the Hispanic and Latino cultures in Texas. The weather will be hot, but the eighth annual Gran Fiesta will make it worth your while, with an expected crowd of 100,000 gathering on North Main Street to take in musical acts, a car show, Latin cuisine and more. In previous years, the festival was held in downtown Fort Worth, but this year's move north will accommodate bigger crowds and ensure access to plenty of free parking. Admission to the event is free, but be sure to bring some dinero if you want to eat or shop. A large open-air market, or mercado, will offer a wide variety of art and goods for sale, and there will be no shortage of entertainment for the kiddies—face painting, clowns, a rock wall and rides, as well as a train that will run through the five-block festival area. Perhaps the biggest draw of Gran Fiesta, though, is the music: With three stages featuring a variety of local, regional and national acts, there will always be somebody performing. And if you're unfamiliar with some of the Latin music stars at the festival, check out the cultural stage to see Latino drumming, Ballet Folklorico and cultural dance performances. Go to iemshows.com/fiesta to find out more.
Anand Bazaar, August 18, Grand Prairie
In India, August 15 is a national holiday that commemorates the day in 1947 when power was transferred from the British Raj to the Indian National Congress. Each year Independence Day celebrations are held all across India, with flag-raisings and speeches by the prime minister (and maybe a sparkler or two). But if you can't quite make it to the other side of the world for the commemoration, you can join the India Association of North Texas for its annual celebration, the Anand Bazaar. This year's festival takes place at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, with more than 15,000 people expected to attend. The celebration will last from 5:30 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, August 18, giving you the whole night to explore the richness of Indian culture. The bazaar will include a parade, a fireworks show, cultural programs by the IANT youth, face painting for the kids, plenty of Indian cuisine and live entertainment for people of all ages. Call 972-234-IANT or visit iant.org.