BURNING SNOWMAN FEST, FEBRUARY 25
When the winter weather wears everyone down along the Lake Erie shoreline in Ottawa County, the Burning Snowman Fest will chase it away by reminding Old Man Winter it’s time to leave by torching a 25-foot tall “Snowman” on the Port Clinton Beach.
There’s a lot of music, parties and food for the revelers anxious to embrace the summer season that is just around the corner and chase the winter blues away.
BIGGEST WEEK IN AMERICAN BIRDING, MAY 5-14
The Biggest Week in American Birding is a 10-day festival encompassing a wide swath of Northwest Ohio’s wetlands, affectionally known by bird watchers as “The Warbler Capital of the World!” It’s the chance for dedicated birders, or just people who like to see bald eagles, owls or pretty songbirds in the wild, to experience some of the best birding North America has to offer.
More than 100,000 people are expected, many carrying binoculars or cameras.
The festival has a lot to offer both beginner and seasoned birders alike, with bird identification workshops, guided birding trips, birding by canoe, daily walks at the world famous Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, American Woodcock field trips, keynote presentations, a Birder’s Marketplace, and evening socials with free food and music.
The festival headquarters is at Maumee Bay Lodge & Conference Center between Toledo and Port Clinton, with additional vendors and activities at Black Swamp Bird Observatory at Magee Marsh in Oak Harbor.
The long, long list of Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) events for birders each year includes the Birder’s Marketplace, Bird Tattoo Contest, Birder Prom and Bird Trivia Night. The list can be found at: www.biggestweekinamericanbirding.com
42nd WALLEYE FESTIVAL, MAY 25-29
Lake Erie is the Walleye Capital of the World, and Port Clinton owns that title by as walleye populations have soared in recent years. To celebrate the 42nd annual Main Street Port Clinton Walleye Festival in picturesque Waterworks Park on the shores of beautiful Lake Erie. The spring walleye fishing on Lake Erie is always tremendous, luring thousands of avid anglers from around the country.
In addition to the great Lake Erie fishing there are free live concerts, a Kids Fishing Derby, Grande Parade, educational programs and activities, Walleye 5K Run & Walk and carnival rides. County Fair food and more than 130 vendors from around the area help make the event one of Ohio’s premier outdoor weekend celebrations.
SOUTH BASS ISLAND KAYAK RENDEZVOUS, JUNE 9-11
The South Bass Island Kayak Rendezvous based on Lake Erie is the premier kayaking and camping experience on South Bass Island and Lake Erie. Many paddle over from the mainland for a weekend of paddling, camping, socializing and exploring the Lake Erie Islands over a long weekend. Some paddlers rely on the spacious Miller Ferry if Lake Erie is a bit bumpy.
There are new water trails for kayakers in the Lake Erie Islands region, and more water trails around the Port Clinton area on the mainland.
Kayak and canoe launch ramps have been developed in recent years by the Ohio Division of Parks and Watercraft. Campsites are plentiful at the many state parks in the immediate area all year round.
Be sure to stop at the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Center in Port Clinton for a slick, free Lake Erie Islands Water Trails guide, or visit ohiodnr.gov.
Beginning paddlers will find calm waters around the islands, such as Put-in-Bay Harbor, or on the Mainland Water Trails, including the recently approved Portage River Water Trail from Oak harbor to Port Clinton. Intermediate or experienced paddlers will enjoy exploring the islands, as long as they keep an eye on the wind, weather and powerboat boat traffic.
To sign up for the South Bass Island Kayak Rendezvous visit: www.sbikayakrendezvous.com
PYRATE FESTIVAL, JUNE 24-27
Put-In-Bay’s annual Pyrate Festival welcomes the return of the Pyrate King to find his stolen treasure, and it’s always a glorious sight to see when those well-dressed guys and gals arrive for a fun time. Based in downtown Put-in-Bay, it’s a blast for the whole family, with costume contests for kids and adults and cardboard boat races.
Watch Pyrates invade Put-In-Bay Harbor as cannons fire volleys from downtown’s DeRivera Park, or beat a path around town in a 5K run, visit a Pirate Village and Faire Winds Circus, or the groups of swashbuckling re-enactors.
FOURTH OF JULY FIREWORKS, JULY 4
Fireworks shows will be held all around the Ottawa County area as soon as the sun goes down on the Fourth of July. Whether you watch from a boat anchored on Lake Erie, or from a shoreline seat at Lakeside-Marblehead, Port Clinton or Oak Harbor, there will be plenty of “ooohs” and “aaahs” to be had. The Put-In-Bay Harbor and Cedar Point Amusement Park fireworks displays will dazzle island visitors.
NATIONAL RIFLE AND PISTOL MATCHES, JULY 8-AUGUST 5
Since 1907, Camp Perry has hosted the National Rifle and Pistol Matches, a national shooting sports festival for pistol, smallbore rifle and high-powered rifle shooters. More than 4,500 shooters from across the country and around the world will compete in the Civilian Marksmanship Program events.
Shooters range from beginners to top international competitors, and spectators are more than welcome to watch the action on the spacious ranges at the Ohio National Guard facility on the Lake Erie shoreline, just west of Port Clinton.
The pistol competition will kick off the National Matches, followed by the smallbore rifle events and the high-powered rifle action.
MIDDLE BASS ISLAND MUSIC FESTIVAL, JULY 15
The free Middle Bass Island Music Festival at Lonz Winery is hosted by Middle Bass Island State Park. The music fest event and art demonstrations are free and open to everyone, however art demonstration participants may be a charged a fee for art materials.
To get to Middle Bass Island take the Miller Ferry from its Catawba Island dock to Middle Bass Island, or the Jet Express to Put-in-Bay and take a shuttle to Middle Bass Island.
The festival is from noon-7 p.m., so if you’re staying for the whole concert, take the Jet Express, which has later hours of return to the mainland.
KELLEYS ISLAND FILM FESTIVAL, JULY 21-23
The Kelleys Island Film Festival hosted by the Kelleys Island Chamber of Commerce is a weekend-long event that features an exciting lineup of six movies for the entire family. Movies are held both indoor and outdoor, drive-in style. Refreshments are available.
Take the Kelleys Island Ferry from Marblehead and enjoy a stroll through the downtown area or a golf cart or bicycle ride around the island. Not only is the inflatable screen and sound system impressive, snacks and drinks will be for sale during all showtimes. It features a great selection of box office favorites.
PORT CLINTON LIGHTHOUSE FESTIVAL, AUGUST 19
The Port Clinton Lighthouse Festival will feature lighthouse tours, entertainment, arts, kites, silent auction, items for sale, food, and the unique history of the Port Clinton Lighthouse. It is located in Waterworks Park in downtown Port Clinton.
An exceptional sculpture, “The Lightkeeper,” by Port Clinton’s Andy Sacksteder, an artist in resident at The Art Garage in Port Clinton, enhances the attractive Port Clinton Lighthouse. The sculpture portrays a lighthouse keeper leaving his post at the lighthouse after a long night’s vigil with his trusty dog in tow.
Waterworks Park has a sandy Lake Erie swimming beach, a fishing pond, baseball fields and a beautiful new walkway along the Portage River in downtown Port Clinton.
HALUPKI FESTIVAL, AUGUST 20
A celebration of foods and culture, the Halupki Festival is hosted annually by the oldest Orthodox church in Ohio, Holy Assumption Orthodox Church, 114 E. Main Street in downtown Marblehead. The Old World food fest features such treats as cabbage rolls, pierogis, kolbasi, baked goods, Herman Halupki’s craft show, historic church tours, and live polka bands.
BASH ON THE BAY — AUGUST 23-24
Continuing the success of the Bash on the Bay, promoter Tim Niese will bring another two-day concert to the Put-in-Bay Airport on South Bass Island. To double the fun, Niese has booked two superstars — all-star Napster Pitbull and the Luke Bryan — and a host of other talented musicians.
Pitbull will be the headliner on Wednesday night, while Luke Bryan will close out the music festival in style on Thursday.
PERCH, PEACH, PIEROGI & POLKA FESTIVAL, SEPTEMBER 1-3
The Port Clinton Chapter of the Knights of Columbus in downtown Port Clinton will have all of the town’s favorite food groups in plentiful supply for the annual Labor Day weekend extravaganza, the Perch, Peach, Pierogi & Polka Festival. Enjoy Lake Erie perch sandwiches or dinners, pierogis, polish sausage, and delicious peach cobbler topped with Toft’s ice cream at the Knights of Columbus Hall.
Live award-winning polka bands will be under the big tent at K of C Hall, along with a large dance floor and lots of tables and chairs for weary dancers and hungry partiers.
What could be better than music, food, dancing and fun? And the beer is ice cold!
PUT-IN-BAY MUSIC FESTIVAL, SEPTEMBER 16
The Put-In-Bay Music Festival brings Bluegrass, New Grass, Zydeco, Folk and Rhythm & Blues to South Bass Island for a free concert to kick off the fall season. The first act goes on stage at 11 a.m. and the final act won’t wrap up the all-day fun until 11 p.m.
Bring folding chairs or blankets, and kick back and enjoy the eclectic mix of music in the shadow of Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, which commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie that took place near Ohio’s South Bass Island. Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry led his fleet to victory in one of the most decisive naval battles to occur in the War of 1812
VINTAGE SPORTS CAR RACING, SEPTEMBER 19-21
The sounds of open exhausts of MGs, Triumphs and many other unique sports cars of the past will be heard and seen at Put-In-Bay on South Bass Island, and racing at the Put-In-Bay Airport. The 2023 Put-in-Bay Sports Car Races & Reunion will provide two full days of racing at the Put-In-Bay Airport, as well as a full day of pre-racing events.
The Put-in-Bay Sports Car Races and Reunion also welcomes owner-drivers of non-racing, vintage sports cars of types similar to the race cars. These “street cars” participate in all the various events and activities, except for the actual races.
The Put-in-Bay Road Races Reunion celebrates sports car races that were held on the streets of Put-in-Bay from 1952 to 1959 and in 1963. The three-day reunion engages racers and non-racers alike in an event that reaches back in time to capture the history and re-create the atmosphere of sports car racing of that era in a uniquely beautiful setting.
OAK HARBOR APPLE FESTIVAL, OCTOBER 14-15
The Oak Harbor Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting the family-oriented Apple Festival which attracts more than 25,000 visitors each year. It is held in downtown Oak Harbor with all activities located within a one block walking area.
Enjoy the sights and sounds of the Grand Parade, the kiddie tractor pulling contest, bingo at the fire station, and the talent show to round out the day’s entertainment. Saturday night be sure to come out to “Applepalooza,” which will feature live bands and a beer tent.
Sunday is chock full of fun as well, featuring the Classic Car Show, 5K Apple Run, 1 Mile Kid’s Run, local performers and over 130 vendors. There are no admission fees and a shuttle runs from the high school parking lot for $1.
LAKESIDE-MARBLEHEAD LIGHTHOUSE FESTIVAL, OCTOBER 14
The peninsula-wide Lakeside-Marblehead Lighthouse Festival this year will feature the iconic Marblehead Lighthouse and fully-restored Keeper’s House just down the road. The festivities include a variety of activities for the entire family to enjoy in both the Village of Marblehead and the Lakeside resort community.
There are tours from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. of the Marblehead Lighthouse and Keeper’s House, live entertainment, pie contest/auction, arts and crafts vendors, farmer’s market, historic walking tours, children’s crafts, hayrides, free miniature golf and shuffleboard, a family movie, and shopping/dining opportunities.
The Lakeside Chautauqua resort community shares the fall holiday with the Village of Marblehead, and on the Marblehead Peninsula all of the unique retail shops, stores, restaurants and taverns will be open.
Lakeside will have lots of games and attractions for the kids. Ohio tourism officials report the Marblehead Lighthouse is the most-photographed tourism attraction in the Buckeye State.
NEW YEAR’S EVE WALLEYE DROP, DECEMBER 31
Wylie Walleye made a live, three-story “plunge” into downtown Port Clinton last New Year’s Eve, and the high-tech version of the fish that has been lowered to a waiting New Year’s Eve audience in Port Clinton was again live-streamed around the world to revelers.
Wylie Walleye has become a national celebrity over the years, and is the major reason for the biggest Port Clinton party of the year. The small Lake Erie town has outdone itself in recent years, giving a lot of businesses a boost with its 4th annual “Swim Tour,” four luxury busses that ferry fun-loving celebrants to a wide range of bars and taverns in the area. The shuttle is free, its bathrooms are warm and its Wifi keeps everyone in touch.
After Wyle Walleye’s airborne adventure, stick around. The downtown Port Clinton fireworks show after midnight is a delight.