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Road Trip Guide: Free Festivals

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The road trip has become the iconic symbol for American past times. Route 66 became famous due to the summer traffic that's graced its concrete, but this typical rite of passage is not limited to broke college students looking for a cheap adventure. Road trips are a great, affordable way to explore what America has to offer, and free festivals are becoming popular destinations. For the music or the truly bizarre, these six stops are a must for your summer travel itinerary.

Chicago Blues Festival (Chicago, Illinois)

If blues music is what you're into, your first stop must be the Chicago Blues Festival, the largest free blues festival in the world. Held in early June, this festival has claimed some of the biggest names in blues, including Ray Charles and B.B. King. With five stages, there is no shortage of amazing music to entertain the half a million people who flock to this festival every year. Pack a blanket, since no tents or folding chairs are allowed in the seating area of the Petrillo Music Shell. 

Avon Heritage Duck Tape Festival (Avon, Ohio)

If you're looking to combine the obligatory road trip roadside attraction with a free festival, then the Avon Heritage Duck Tape Festival fits the bill. You may be tricked into thinking that this is your average festival when you spy the rides, food and music, but when you take a closer look, you will find unusual duck tape-themed events. Duck tape crafts run abundant throughout this June event, and it is not uncommon to see patrons' clothes made entirely of this sticky material. But the crowning jewel is the parade, where the floats are made of — you guessed it — duck tape! 

River to River Festival (Manhattan, New York)

Follow the road to New York for the River to River Festival. This urban festival was created to revitalize a city that was devastated from the terror attacks of September 2001. If you have any inclination towards the arts, you will need to mark this is your road trip schedule for late June. Here, you will find 11 days of various performance art located throughout the streets of Manhattan. You'll be entertained and inspired by too many live dance, music and theater performances to count. Before you make your arrival here, make sure to print a copy of the RTR Festival calendar to know when and where the action is taking place.

Yarmouth Clam Festival (Yarmouth, Maine)

Travel up the East Coast, which is known for its beautiful beaches and fresh seafood, for the Yarmouth Clam Festival. Although this state is really known for its lobsters, the clams are not to be dismissed. This festival, which has taken place since 1965 and is put together in July from non-profit groups, pays ode to the delicious sea animal. Besides boasting the normal festival activities like a parade and fireworks, you will find a full carnival, live music on three stages and a clam-shucking contest. All the entertainment is free, but if you come hungry, remember to bring some cash for the clam cuisines. All proceeds go towards the non-profit centers running the food booths. 

Ionia Free Fair (Ionia, Michigan)

The Ionia Free Fair is 10 days of free fun, with attractions that appeal to both adults and children. This long-standing July event dates back to 1856, and you'll find everything here you would expect at a state fair, including livestock, antiques building, and tractor and monster truck pulls. If you are traveling with young children, they always dedicate one day out of the 10 to have children-based activities, but if you happen to miss that particular day, the children can still enjoy the 50 rides and attractions. The free circus performed here is always a crowd-pleaser, as well as the wild animal exhibit. If your road trip agenda is centered around free music, there is plenty to choose from here, and if you are feeling really ambitious, try your hand at the vocal competition held every year.

Potato Days (Barnesville, Minnesota)

Even if you're not a fan of the potato, you can't miss this two-day August festival dedicated to the spud, a staple in traditional American cuisine. Where else can you witness mashed potato wrestling or a potato sculpting contest? These two days are filled to the brim with anything and everything related to the potato. Be a spectator at the Miss Tater Tot contest or bet on which potato car will win the race. If nothing else, simply sampling all the delicacies that potatoes can create will be worth the trip to Barnesville. The 20,000 people that attend this festival every year will attest to that.

By following this road trip agenda, you can easily gather a solid collection of American fun and lasting memories. Festivals have always been a step out of the ordinary that creates strong bonds among your group, so planning your summer road trip around this free fun is never a wrong choice.

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Mar 18, 2016