Roll over, Chopin
Give grandma and her stew pot a rest and take her to Pierogi Fest, a celebration of the yummy Eastern European dumpling and the hardworking ancestors who rolled out the handmade dough. Don your favorite babushka and get ready to meet Mr. Pierogi and enjoy three stages of nonstop entertainment from polka bands and international dancers to clown antics and magic shows. Join in the Polka Dance Off, hosted by Polkahontas; the pierogi toss and pierogi-eating contest; and watch the Mr. Pierogi Songfest. The Polka Parade features marching units such as the Lawn Mower Drill Team and the Babushka Brigade. A beer garden and more than 40 food vendors help you refuel for a round of "Who Stole the Kishka." A 25-minute drive from downtown Chicago, Whiting offers a good number of budget-priced hotels, too.
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 29-30, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, July 31, at 119th Street at Indianapolis Boulevard, Whiting, Ind. Visit pierogifest.net or call (888) 659-0292.
Remember those old school pastimes -- before email, cellphones and Skype -- of reading and speaking face to face with another human being? Recall and revel in them by stopping by the Newberry Library's annual Book Fair and Bughouse Square Debates.
It has been 27 years of inexpensive used books at the fair and this year's haul is coming in at a record number -- more than 120,000 donated books will be sorted into 70 categories, from antiques to zoology. Admission is free and many books are priced for less than $2. Then, see the First Amendment in action when orators and debaters get up on their soapboxes and tell us what's on their mind. Feel free to orate, heckle or jump up and throw in your two cents. Prizes will be awarded to the best speakers and hecklers. There will be musical entertainment and cool refreshments to quell all the hot air.
Book fair: Noon to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 28-29, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 30-31, at the Library, 60 W. Walton St. Bughouse Square Debates: 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 30, at Washington Square Park, 901 N. Clark St. Call (312) 943-9090 or visit newberry.org.
Morsels and music
In a city of remarkable restaurants and festivals and in a neighborhood known for its nightspots, The Taste of Lincoln Avenue celebrates its 28th year as one of the city's largest neighborhood festivals. It covers six blocks and all the bases in terms of food and tunes. Expect around 300 vendors and more than 35 regional and local bands like blues legend Johnny Winter on five entertainment stages and an entire city block devoted to children's entertainment. The Kids' Carnival, on Altgeld Street, features pony rides, petting zoo, inflatable slide, moonwalk, face painting, games and prizes and a stage for live entertainment, from singers to magicians and puppeteers. Expect a stellar array of food and people-watching.
Noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 30-31, at 2400 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Admission is $7 suggested donation before 4 p.m., $10 after. Visit chicagoevents.com or call (773) 868-3010.
Here comes the sun
With musical acts sporting names like Explocion de la Cumbria and Rumba Caliente, you have to expect a hot time at Fiesta del Sol -- after all, its name literally means Sun Party. The good times at this Pilsen event, now in its 39th year, are fueled solely by burning tunes and sizzling food, because this fiesta is alcohol and tobacco free. The largest Latino festival in the Midwest also features carnival rides, arts and crafts vendors, salsa and merengue lessons and children's activities. Admission is free but stop at the ATM before arriving so you can load up on authentic cuisine from the likes of Tacos Hernandez, Enchiladas Jovita and the granddaddy of the neighborhood -- Nuevo León.
5 to 10 p.m. Thursday, July 28, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 29-30, at 1200 W. Cermak Road, Chicago. Call (312) 666-2663 or visit fiestadelsol.org for more information.
Get a Kickapoo out of a country fair
Looking for a great summer celebration that's free and also includes live music and dancing, author readings, local artisans and food vendors, kids' activities, farm tours and exhibits, and workshops related to sustainability and organic cooking? Get to the Kickapoo Country Fair, a rural heritage festival, that takes place among the ancient hills of the Kickapoo River Valley in southwest Wisconsin. The eighth annual lifestyle event offers culinary workshops; farm tours and exhibits; local and organic food in the Kickapoo Kitchen; kids' activities; a Cooks & Books tent; and speakers such as TV personality Andrew Zimmern, host of Travel Channel's hit series "Bizarre Foods" with Andrew Zimmern. Also, enjoy music by the Kentucky Headhunters, Bad Axe Blues Band and other entertainers in between learning knife skills and beer, cheese and chocolate pairing.
10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 30, on the grounds of Organic Valley's headquarters, 507 W. Main St., La Farge, Wis. Call (888) 444-6455 or visit kickapoocountryfair.org.
Construct a historic getaway
See interesting and important buildings from around Jefferson County that have been relocated to Pearl Park to save them from demolition during the Jefferson County Bicentennial History Festival in Madison, Ind. The buildings, rarely open to the public, will be staffed with costumed interpreters to tell you about the 1890s doctors' office moved from Kent: two unique 1850 bee houses from Canaan; the wonderfully restored 1870 Sutter wagon factory from North Madison; and the newest acquisition, the Cosby shotgun house rescued and moved from downtown Madison. There will be traditional craft demonstrations, displays of Civil War weapons, musical entertainment throughout the day and food
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 30, at Pearl Park, corner of Milton and West streets, Madison, Ind. Suggested donation $5. Visit visitmadison.org.
Worth the trip
Since when has getting older been an advantage? Since Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality brings back it "Your Age is Your Discount" promotion. Valid at the company's six resorts and hotels in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the deal means that the age of the oldest traveler equals the total percentage discount off the hotel room rate -- bring your 100-year-old auntie to Central America and the stay is 100 percent free. The eco-luxury properties include Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation and Inn in Costa Rica and Jicaro Island Ecolodge in Nicaragua. Although activities vary at each resort, they can include spa services, yoga, adventure tours, hiking and water sports. Adults love the lack of traffic and kids get in touch with their wild side with the surrounding jungles teeming with birds, monkeys and more.
Valid for stays between Aug. 28 and Nov. 15. Book at cayugaonline.com/travel/hotels_and_resorts.html.