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updated: 8/27/2014 1:16 PM

Arboretum festival explores Europe through its trees, plants

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By Patricia MacMillan
The Morton Arboretum

Visitors to the Morton Arboretum can explore the centuries-old traditions and cultures of European countries at the Passport Europe Summer Festival.

The festival will feature dancing, storytelling, athletic demonstrations and authentic dishes native to several European countries from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 6 and 7, at 4100 Route 53, Lisle.

The event includes a focus on plants at the arboretum that are native to Central and Northern Europe. Indigenous to countries such as France, Switzerland and Sweden, these specimens originally were cared for by the arboretum's first botanist in 1925 and represent some of the oldest on the grounds. Visitors can test their knowledge of these tree species in an interactive game for the chance to win a prize.

Three performance areas will feature several entertainment acts:

• Tap your feet along to the German songs of Jimmy's Bavarians. Dressed in lederhosen, the oompah band also features a 12-foot-long Alpenhorn.

• Travel to Scotland with the distinctive music of bagpiper Michael Pye of Illinois Piper.

• See feet fly in synchronicity as the McNulty Irish Dancers, outfitted in traditional Celtic dress, take the stage.

• Relive the old days with Rat Pack Jazz. In addition to his Italian repertoire, crooner Frank Lamphere performs covers of classic Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin songs.

• Watch fables come to life as the costumed Brothers Grimm enact scenes from German fairy tales.

• Get caught up in the sweeping movements and bold steps of Spanish flamenco dancers accompanied by the music of Guitarra Azul, a six-piece ensemble performing on the Spanish guitar.

• Gather around for children's performer Chris Fascione, a storyteller who encourages audience participation.

• Saturday only, the folk-costumed Nordic Folk Dancers of Chicago will perform traditional Scandinavian dances and invite visitors to join in. The group has previously performed for the king and queen of Sweden, as well as during the opening ceremony of the World Cup soccer tournament.

• Listen to the banjo and hammer dulcimer from Celtic and folk group Trillium.

Visitors also can take part in croquet, available all day, as well as face-painting from artists with Aurora-based Dots and Splashes.

For information about the Passport Europe festival and the full roster of arboretum activities, see