What To Do: Balloon Fest, Father Fest & more

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Whether looking for fun with Dad or just cool music, there are events for you

By Denny DyroffCorrespondent, The Times


The eighth Annual Chester County Balloon Festival kicks off Friday night in Unionville and continues Saturday.

There are some things that can happen in the sky above you and compel you to look up. It’s almost certain that if there is a hot air balloon in the sky above you, you’re going to interrupt what you’re doing and gaze up. It’s the same way when a helicopter flies overhead.

This weekend, there are two events in Chester County that will feature both of these curiosity-inspiring aircraft — the Chester County Balloon Festival in Unionville and Father Fest at the American Helicopter Museum in West Chester.

There is something majestic about a huge balloon floating untethered through the air that commands your attention. If you think it is fun to see one balloon floating above you, imagine what it’s like to be able to look at the sky and see more than 20 huge, multi-colored balloons filling the airspace above you.

You can enjoy that experience if you attend this weekend’s Eighth Annual Chester County Balloon Festival. The two-day event will be held June 13 and 14 at Plantation Field, which is located just off Route 82 in Unionville.

Activity gets underway at 5 p.m. June 13 when the grounds are open to the public. There will be “Balloon Launch” starting at 6 p.m. followed by the “Night Glow.” During the glow, balloons inflate at dusk, remain tethered, and light their burners in a synchronized fashion.

On June 14, the festival will run from 3-9 p.m. with tethered balloon rides, continuous live music, craft and food vendors and a children’s area featuring kid-friendly attractions.

This year’s theme is “Changes in Latitudes” and the music will have a Caribbean theme. At 3 p.m., there will be an “Island Music Mix” presented by Price Stevenson Acoustical Research and then the reggae band Riddem Nation will perform at 5 p.m.

Following the live music, there will be a special “Mass Balloon Launch” at 6 p.m. and a “Special Shapes Presentation” at 7 p.m. The festival will conclude with the “Spectacular Balloon Glow Finale” at 9 p.m.

Admission to the festival is $10 per car.  Some activities at the festival require additional fees. One-hour hot air balloon rides are available for $200 (a.m. flights) or $225 (p.m. flights) per person. Information on ride reservations can be found at www.CCBalloonFest.com or call AirVentures at 610-827-7208.

June 15 is Father’s Day. Every year, the American Helicopter Museum & Education Center (1220 American Blvd., Brandywine Airport, West Chester, 610-436-9600, www.helicoptermuseum.org) celebrates the day with “Fatherfest.”

This year, the museum’s annual “Fatherfest” will get underway at 10 a.m. and continue until 2 p.m. Visitors can check out static displays, take a tour of the museum, and — for an extra fee — treat their fathers to a ride in a chopper. Admission to the event is $7 and helicopter rides will be available at a cost of $40 per person.

As an added attraction, the popular family event also features a “Hot Rod, Antique Car and Motorcycle Show” with exhibitors competing for prizes. There will also be a variety of concession booths at Fatherfest with food, beverages and souvenirs.

In just a few years, the Brandywine Food & Wine Festival has established itself as a popular area summer event. The 2014 edition of festival is being presented by the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail on June 14 at the Myrick Conservation Center (1760 Unionville-Wawaset Road, West Chester, 610-444-3842).

The event, which is scheduled to run from noon-6 p.m., will feature local wines, foods, crafts and music. There will be a wide array of wineries from the area taking part in this year’s festival with free tastings of local Pennsylvania wines and sales of wine by the glass or the bottle.

Nine wineries participating in the event this year — Kreutz Creek Vineyard, Black Walnut Winery, Paradocx Vineyard, Patone Cellars, Grace Winery, Penns Woods Winery,  Borderland Vineyard, Ten Gallon Hat Winery and Stone Barn Cellars Winery.

Gourmet food offerings will be available for purchase from a number of local restaurants and caterers, including Amani’s BYOB, Bangles Indian Cuisine, Caffe Gelato, Forno Inferno, Sherri’s Crab Cakes, Ka-Chi Truck and Jimmy’s BBQ. A cooking demonstration will be held by local award-winning chef, Jonathan Amann of Amani’s BYOB.

Two local bands — Bushmaster Blues featuring Gary Brown and Runnin’ Late — will perform throughout the day. Additionally, the Chester County Beekeepers will hold a session on local honey production.

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Longwood Gradnes is holding a “Grand Opening Weekend” for the Meadow Garden this weekend.

Longwood Gardens (Route 1, Kennett Square, 610-388-1000, www.longwood gardens.org) has never been content to sit on its laurels. The historic garden tourist site is always looking for innovative paths to travel as well as new attractions to impress its visitors.

The newest arrival is the Meadow Garden. “Grand Opening Weekend” for the Meadow Garden is scheduled for June 13-15 with tours, family activities, and opportunities for exploration.

The Meadow Garden, which has more than three miles of walking and hiking trails, is a beautiful American landscape spanning 86 acres that showcases native plantings and highlights the relationship between the human and natural worlds.

Both sustainably managed and visually artistic, the Meadow Garden blends bursts of colorful plantings and grand vistas with best practices in land stewardship. The Meadow Garden is actively propagated with herbaceous perennials and includes other interventions to manage invasive plants, control trees and shrubs, and promote wildlife.

In addition to the hundreds of plant varieties already thriving in the Meadow and the surrounding woodland edge, more than 100 species have been added to create sweeps of color, texture, and biodiversity that permeate the landscape, providing interest and habitat benefit in every season.

In the spring, woody plants such as Carolina silverbell, Eastern redbud, flowering dogwood and sweet azalea grace the woodland/meadow edge, along with a robust herbaceous layer of species such as wild cranesbill, Indian-physic, and Virginia bluebells.

In the summer, meadow species such as black-eyed Susan, hollow Joe-Pye-weed and various sunflowers and ironweeds provide visual show and habitat benefit, along with host plants for the declining monarch butterfly, such as common milkweed, butterfly-weed, and swamp milkweed.

In the fall, there will be numerous native asters and warm-season meadow grasses, along with the foliage of woodland edge species such as red and sugar maple, and red, white and mossy-cup oaks.

In the winter, the dried seed pods of the flowering plants and the various grasses provide more subdued beauty and textural effect, while providing important winter habitat for a variety of native insects and animals.

The historic Webb Farmhouse, which was built on the property since the early 1700s, has been restored and will serve as an interpretive center. Inside, guests can explore two galleries — one featuring photography and art work depicting the beauty of the Meadow throughout the changing seasons and the other telling the story of the people who have lived on the land since the Lenni Lenape, the original Native American inhabitants.

Admission to Longwood Gardens is $18 for adults, $15 for seniors (age 62 and older), $8 for students (ages 5–18) and free for children (age 4 and under).

When the summer bugs come out, you can usually escape them by heading indoors — but that doesn’t hold true everywhere.

At the Delaware Museum of Natural History (4840 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 302-658-9111, http://www.delmnh.org), the bugs are also inside. These bugs are part of the museum’s new “Bugs: Outside the Box” exhibit.

The exhibit, which is running from June 14-September 1, features giant sculptures that each showcase the beauty hidden within insects and give us a different perspective of bugs. Visitors can get up close with a dragonfly’s delicate wing, the huge mandible of a stag beetle, or even a section of a butterfly’s scaled wing.

The museum will start the run of the new exhibit with “Bugged Out Weekend” from June 13-15. “Family Fun Day,” which is scheduled for June 14 from 9:30a.m.-4:30 p.m., will feature an exotic bird show (11 a.m. and 1 p.m.), and assorted activity stations.

On June 15, the DMNH will celebrate Father’s Day. From noon-4:30 p.m., the museum offers hands-on activities meant to celebrate all that is great about dads. Free with admission. Museum admission is $9 for adults and $7 for children.

If you’re looking for a fun, family event this weekend, a good place to look is Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library (5105 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, Delaware, 800-448-3883, www.winterthur.org).

On June 14 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., the historic site, which is located on Route 52 in northern Delaware just south of the Pennsylvania state line, hosts its annual Enchanted Summer Day — the day when Winterthur’s Enchanted Woods celebrates its anniversary.

Enchanted Summer Day features crafts displays, live entertainers and food concessions. There will be an array of family activities, including storytelling, Maypole dancing demonstrations, face painting, kids’ games and strolling entertainment.

Strolling musicians Slyte of Hand will perform Celtic music. Strolling storyteller Terry Colonna will tell tales as she roams through the woods from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Strolling magician Magic Tad will be performing tricks during the same time as he wanders around the woods.

Other attractions include making Sneaky Snake and Wobbly Bird puppets, creating a puzzle, enjoying treats from a Woodside Farm Creamery ice cream cart, a pot-a-plant area with take-home nasturtium and tours of the museum.

Enchanted Woods is a unique children’s garden at Winterthur — a three-acre area where the “fairy folk” have created a magical garden for children of all ages. The site, which is situated under a canopy of majestic oak trees, features attractions such as the Tulip Tree House, Green Man’s Lair, the Troll Bridge and the Faerie Cottage.

Enchanted Woods is located within the larger 60-acre garden at Winterthur, the former country estate of Henry Francis du Pont. Winterthur is famous for its world-class collection of over 85,000 American antiques.

Admission to Winterthur is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors (62 and older) and students and $5 for children (ages 2-11).

If you’re a fan of jazz music, there will be plenty of live performances to make you smile over the next few days — and they’re all free.

From June 18-21, Rodney Square in the center of Wilmington will host the 26th Annual Clifford Brown Jazz Festival (11th and Market streets, Wilmington, 302-576-3095, www.cliffordbrownjazzfest.com).

The free festival honors Brown, an internationally-acclaimed trumpeter. The Wilmington native was killed in a car accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in 1956.

The first concert at Rodney Square will start at 6 p.m. on June 18 with The Brownie-Roach Project opening for Grammy Award-winning pianist/vocalist Dianne Schuur. The 6 p.m. show on June 19 will feature Lynn Riley along with the Latin Jazz All-Stars, who will present “A Tribute to Dave Valentin.”

On June 20, the concert at Rodney Square will showcase the talents of Amel Larruiex and Mindi Abair. There will also be the “Silver Trumpet Block Party!”  — an outdoor block party located in the heart of downtown Wilmington. Attendees will be able to dance to the sounds of the “Blind Date” Band. The party starts at 9:30 p.m.

There will four top-flight jazz acts performing at the festival on June 21 — Brian Culbertson, Habana Sax, Aniya Jazz and Jawanza Kobie. Additionally, there will be free outdoor lunchtime concerts from June 16-20 at the H.B. DuPont Plaza (10th and West streets) from noon-1:30 p.m. each day.

The State Street Blues Stroll has found its niche and established itself as an area music tradition. This year’s 14th Annual State Street Blues Stroll will be held along State Street in Media on June 14 from 6 p.m.-1 a.m.

Some of the headline acts will be the Alligator Records recording artists the Holmes Brothers, who will play at the Media Theater Main Stage at 8:30 and the Lonnie Shields Band, which is slated to perform at 9:30 p.m. at Sligo’s.

The long list of shows includes Steve Guyger Trio (Plumstead Inn), Eryn Shewell & The Whiskey Devils (Ariano), Dukes of Destiny (FMFCU Coffee Beanery), Roger Girke Blues/Organ Trio (Azie), Bickel Brothers Band (Stella Artois), Fred Miller Band, Gene Gibson & Rich Stomackin and Jonny Never (7 Stones Café), Sister Blue Duo (La Belle Epoque), Andrea Carlson & The Love Police (Towne House Forge Room), Johnny Never & Zep Harpo (Desert Rose), Christine Kinslow (Lotus) and Bruce Anthony (Temaki Sushi Bar).

Also featured will be Dave Coppa Band (Picasso), BC Combo featuring Bev Conklin (Stephen’s on State), Randy Lippincott Band (Joclyn’s), Nick Everett (House), Gene Gibson and Rich Stomackin (Media Pizza & Grill), The Gracious (Local Home and Gifts), Lost Northern Tribe (The Sporting Gentleman), DapTune (Double Decker Pizza), Blues Brothers & A Sister (John’s Grille), James Day & The Fish Fry (Quotations), Stevie & The Bluescasters (Diego’s) and Don Evans Duo (Spasso Italian Grille).

Tickets for the State Street Blues Stroll are $20. For additional information, call (610) 566-5039 or visit www.statestreetblues.com.

This is the time of the year when there are ethnic food festivals almost every weekend. This weekend’s schedule has two interesting options — St. Maron’s Lebanese and Middle East Cultural Festival (10th and Ellsworth streets, Philadelphia, 215-389-1000, http://www.saintmaron.org) and St. Anthony’s Italian Festival (St. Anthony of Padua Church, 901 North DuPont Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-421-2790,www.stanthonysfestival.com).

Both festivals feature amusements, games and live music but the main draw is the variety of tasty food.

St. Maron’s Lebanese Festival, which runs from June 13-15, offers a wide array of tantalizing Middle Eastern dishes such as kibbe (bulghur, minced onions and finely ground lean beef or lamb), baba ghanoush (eggplant mixed with onions, tomatoes, olive oil and various seasonings) and tabbouleh (vegetarian dish with bulgur, tomatoes, finely chopped parsleymint, and onion).

There will also be hummus (food dip made from cooked, mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic) and freshly-cooked shish kabobs and chicken kabobs. A kabob is a Middle Eastern dish featuring pieces of meat, fish, onions and peppers grilled on a skewer).

Other attractions at St. Maron’s free festival will be folkloric exhibits, arts and crafts booths, hookahs, children’s games, a performance by Dabke Troop, cash prize raffles and live music by Amin Sultan and the Sultans.

The St. Anthony’s Italian Festival, which is running now through June 15, features cafes, carnival rides, live Italian music and amusement games. The festival is also is an educational experience with a focus each year on a different cultural region in Italy. This year’s locale is the Ascoli Piceno region in the Le Marche province.

The festival’s Italian food roster includes spezzato, pizza, sausage and peppers, panzarotti, porkette, clams and spaghetti, pasta fagioli, pizza frita, meatball sandwiches, mozzarella sticks, calamari rings, spaghetti dinners and fresh expresso and cappuccino.

The national bus company Greyhound Lines has its 100 birthday this year and is celebrating the event with a special Greyhound Centennial Mobile Museum Tour. Greyhound began in 1914 in Hibbing, Minnesota — the same town that gave America Bob Dylan, NBA great Kevin McHale and former home run record holder Roger Maris.

The tour made its first two stops in Boston and New York areas and now is headed to Philadelphia. On June 14 from 11 a.m.-8 p.m., the Centennial Tour will visit Penn’s Landing on Delaware Avenue in downtown Philadelphia.

The tour, which will be stopping all around the United States over the next six months, features two buses converted into mobile museums. Visitors will be able to check out displays of memorabilia, including signage and vintage driver uniforms.

Visitors can view videos via interactive touch screen displays and there will be entire wall that will feature a depiction of how Greyhound has evolved over the years. Also featured will be restored classic coaches, such as the 1914 Hupmobile, 1931 Mack, 1937 Yellow Coach, 1947 Silversides,  1948 ACF Brill I-41, 1954 Scenicruiser, 1968 Scenicruiser and the 1984 Americruiser 2.

For additional information on the Greyhound Centennial Mobile Museum Tour, visit www.greyhound.com.


The Strasburg Railroad is hosting a “Day Out With Thomas,” a train tour with a real Thomas The Tank Engine locomotive, starting Saturday and running through June 22.

One of the most popular special events each year at the Strasburg Railroad (Route 741, Strasburg, 717-687-7522, www.strasburgrailroad.com) is “Day Out With Thomas.” Kids love Thomas the Tank Engine and Thomas the Tank Engine loves them back — especially when he encounters them up-close during his visits to the Strasburg Railroad.

Every year, the steam locomotive named Thomas makes several visits to Lancaster County where he entertains enthusiastic children and their parents. The locomotive, which has its own PBS television series, will return to Strasburg for nine days of “Day Out With Thomas” from June 14-22.

For more than 50 years, Thomas the Tank Engine and his Island of Sodor friends have been favorites of preschoolers and their parents. Based on “The Railway Series” (classic stories authored by a father who loved trains and wanted a shared experience with his son), “Thomas & Friends” has evolved into a rite of passage that inspires imagination.

Fans will be able to get personal with Thomas the Tank Engine, a full-sized operating steam locomotive who will be talking for the first time ever. And, they will also be able to ride a train pulled by Thomas and meet the locomotive’s buddy Sir Topham Hatt.

Tickets for “Day Out With Thomas,” which are $21, include the train ride with Thomas the Tank Engine, as well as a variety of Thomas & Friends themed entertainment such as storytelling, video viewing, temporary tattoos of Island of Sodor friends and an Imagination Station.

Kids of all ages — from six to 60 — will agree that one of their favorite summer activities is attending a festival or a fair. Nothing says summertime quite like the lights on a ferris wheel, the noise of arcades and the smell of cotton candy.

The sounds, smells and sights of a fair will be filling the air in Downingtown when Saint Joseph Church (338 Manor Avenue, Downingtown, 610-269-8294, www.stjoesfestival.com) hosts its annual “Community Festival” from June 17-21.

There will be a large variety of rides and amusement games along with a number of food concessions featuring all the standard festival fare — hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn, corn dogs, soft pretzels, ice cream and cotton candy. New items on the menu this year will be cheese fries, mozzarella sticks, tomato pie and hot roast beef sandwiches.

Live music will be presented every day starting with Hopwood on June 17. The Survivors and the Floats will perform on June 19 with 4-Play Band scheduled for June 20. On June 20, the music will be provided by the Bulldogs and then Fren Rock will be the band for the festival’s final night on June 20. The dejeay each night will be DJ Loudenclear.

A new attraction at the festival this year was put together by Amanda Wisk for her Girl Scout Silver Award project. “Come In, Chill Out, Read Up!” is a reading and craft room in the school library.

Children (ages 3-11) are invited to come hear a story, make a craft and select a book to take home — all for free. Story readings begin on the quarter hour.

The festival will be open from 6-10 p.m. from June 17-19 and from 6-11 p.m. on June 20 and 21. Admission is free.

Another food-based festival will be annual Strawberry Festival and Flea Market presented by the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area (204 Church Street, Phoenixville, 610-935-7646, hspa-pa.org) on June 14.

Event hours are listed as 10 a.m.-3 p.m. but activity will really get underway with the opening of the flea market at 9 a.m. The actual Strawberry Festival, starts at 10 a.m. and features strawberries, ice cream and cake.

Kids’ activities are scheduled from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Live entertainment will be presented throughout the day by Ted the Juggler.

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