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Summer Music Festivals in Ohio: A Symphony of Fun and Excitement

Relax | By Cullen Fischel | Updated July 31, 2023


Cullen Fischel's guide to Summer Music Festivals in Ohio: A Symphony of Fun and Excitement

Key Takeaways

  1. Ohio boasts an array of vibrant summer music festivals, ranging from rock and pop to country, jazz, and classical genres.

  2. Each festival provides a unique experience, with varying line-ups, locations, and atmospheres.

  3. These festivals offer more than just music, with local food, craft vendors, and camping opportunities creating a comprehensive cultural experience.

  4. Key festivals include Bunbury Music Festival, INKcarceration, Country Concert, and the Ohio River Throwdown.

The Beauty of Music in Ohio’s Outdoors


Summer is a time of warmth, joy, and celebration. In Ohio, this is made manifest in the state's remarkable array of summer music festivals. Sprinkled across the state, these events attract both local and international artists, creating experiences that are memorable, unique, and enchanting. Every genre of music has a stage in Ohio, from the earthy twang of country tunes to the upbeat rhythm of pop hits and the complex harmonies of classical music. These festivals provide the perfect opportunity to connect with like-minded music fans and enjoy a sensory feast of sounds, sights, and flavors.


folk music festivals recommended by Cullen Fischel of Cleveland

Nelsonville Music Festival

Located in the historic small city of Nelsonville, the Nelsonville Music Festival is a four-day event that showcases a diverse range of music from local, national, and international artists. The festival prides itself on its community-oriented atmosphere and its commitment to sustainability. Here, you can experience the best of folk, indie, and rock music while surrounded by the natural beauty of Southeast Ohio. Don't forget to explore the local food and craft vendors that set up shop for the duration of the festival.


Cincinnati Music Festival: Downtown R&B

Cincinnati Music Festival is a two-day event that has been celebrating R&B music since 1962. Known as one of the largest R&B festivals in the United States, this event draws crowds from across the country and around the world. With big-name artists and rising stars gracing the stages, this festival provides a lively and electric atmosphere in the heart of downtown Cincinnati.


INKcarceration: A Unique Fusion of Music and Tattoos

The INKcarceration Music and Tattoo Festival in Mansfield is an innovative event that combines live music performances with the chance to get inked by some of the best tattoo artists in the world. The venue itself is intriguing; it takes place at the historic Ohio State Reformatory, a retired prison that was used as a filming location for the movie "The Shawshank Redemption." Along with a diverse lineup of rock and metal bands, the festival includes tours of the reformatory, gourmet food trucks, and a haunted house attraction.


Bunbury Music Festival: Where Music Meets the River

Held in downtown Cincinnati at Sawyer Point Park & Yeatman’s Cove, the Bunbury Music Festival typically takes place in early June. The festival is a transformative experience, where the scenic Ohio River's banks become the home to a vast, multistage music event. Over the years, Bunbury has hosted numerous eminent artists, such as Fall Out Boy, Snoop Dogg, and The Avett Brothers. The festival’s name, inspired by Oscar Wilde's play "The Importance of Being Earnest," is reflective of its atmosphere – vibrant, unique, and slightly eccentric.


Country Concert: For the Love of Country

For country music enthusiasts, the Country Concert at Hickory Hill Lakes in Fort Loramie is a must-visit. Every July, this three-day festival showcases the biggest names in country music. In addition to the main stage performances, there are numerous campgrounds, food vendors, and even a quiet zone for those needing a break from the festivities.


Ohio River Throwdown: A Taste of Folk and Bluegrass

The Ohio River Throwdown, hosted at the Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati, offers a diverse range of folk, bluegrass, and indie music. The venue is spectacular, with an outdoor amphitheater that provides an intimate yet vibrant setting for performances. Past lineups have included bands such as Trampled by Turtles and The Avett Brothers.


Jazz & Rib Fest: Best of Both Worlds

Hosted in Columbus, the Jazz & Rib Fest is a haven for jazz music lovers and food enthusiasts. This three-day festival offers performances from renowned local, national, and international jazz artists. At the same time, rib vendors from across the country compete for the 'Best Ribs' title, offering a delicious array of mouthwatering ribs.


Bellwether Music Festival

The Bellwether Music Festival is a two-day, two-stage alternative music festival held at Renaissance Park in Waynesville. Here, you can camp under the stars while enjoying performances from up-and-coming and established indie and alternative rock bands. The festival also offers other activities, such as silent discos, vintage markets, and yoga sessions.


Planning Your Festival Experience


Cullen Fischel's top tips for planning your Cleveland Ohio music festival experience

Attending a music festival requires some planning and preparation. Each festival has its own set of rules, amenities, and schedules that you'll need to familiarize yourself with to make the most of your experience.


Begin by researching each festival's lineup and schedule. Some festivals offer mobile apps with complete schedules, maps, and other useful features. These can be a great resource to help plan your day and ensure you don't miss your favorite artists.


Next, consider the festival's location and accommodations. Some festivals, like the Nelsonville Music Festival and the Bellwether Music Festival, offer on-site camping. Others, like the Cincinnati Music Festival, are located in urban areas with nearby hotels. Choose the option that best fits your budget and comfort level.


Also, make sure to check the festival's rules and policies. These can cover everything from what you're allowed to bring, to safety regulations, to camping policies. Knowing these rules ahead of time can help prevent any issues during the festival.


Lastly, don't forget to take care of your physical needs during the festival. Stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, bring comfortable footwear, and consider bringing ear protection, especially for children. These basic steps can help ensure you stay safe and comfortable during the festival.


Supporting Local Businesses


Music festivals aren't just about the music; they're also about the community. Many festivals in Ohio feature local food vendors, craft stalls, and more. By purchasing from these vendors, you're directly supporting local businesses and contributing to the local economy.


This also extends to accommodations. If the festival doesn't offer on-site camping, consider staying at a local hotel or bed-and-breakfast. Not only does this help support local businesses, but it can also give you a chance to explore the local area and culture.


Festival Safety and Etiquette


While music festivals are generally safe, it's important to take some precautions. Keep your belongings secure and be aware of your surroundings. If you're attending a festival with a group, set up meeting points in case you get separated.


As for etiquette, remember that everyone is there to have a good time. Be respectful of other people's space, especially in crowded areas. Follow the festival's rules and guidelines to ensure a positive experience for everyone involved.


Cullen Fischel's Tips for the Best Festival Experience

  1. Plan Ahead: Research the festival you want to attend and make necessary bookings. Some festivals sell out fast, so be prompt.

  2. Stay Hydrated and Protected: With Ohio’s summer heat, ensure you have plenty of water and wear sunscreen.

  3. Try Local Foods: Most festivals showcase local food vendors, making it a great opportunity to savor Ohio’s culinary delights.

  4. Explore Beyond the Music: Take time to enjoy the additional attractions, whether it's art displays, tattoo showcases, or historic prison tours.

  5. Stay Respectful: Remember to respect the venue, fellow festival-goers, and local residents.

  6. Camp Carefully: If camping, ensure you follow all the festival's rules and guidelines to ensure a safe and fun experience.

Ohio's summer music festivals are a symphony of experiences, each providing a unique opportunity to enjoy incredible music and vibrant culture under the Ohio sky. Whether you're a fan of rock, country, folk, or anything in between, you're sure to find a festival that suits your taste. So get your dancing shoes on and dive into the world of Ohio's summer music festivals!

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