Winter is over, the weather is getting nicer and that means it’s time for us to crawl out of hibernation and be social. Everyone is eager to get back outside and there’s no better way than to visit a festival. Here is one from each Midwestern state that provides the perfect bridge into spring

Words by Brandon Bader

Mission Creek Festival | April 4-9, 2017 | Iowa City, IA

Food, film and art. For five days, Iowa City will become a cultural hub as this annual festival hits the historic downtown district. The festival is produced by Englert Theatre, Iowa City’s 104-year-old historic performing arts organization, and they provide an experience that is unlike any other in the state. Their mission is to produce quality, independent-minded sounds, words, and events. The list of musicians is lengthy and caters to any taste. A pass for the entire festival is $164, but if there is a specific band that you’d like to see, their show tickets are available for solo purchase.

The Big Grape | April 07, 2017 | Sioux Falls, SD

Food and wine festivals are nothing new, but they have an additional flair when they have historical context. The Big Grape is the premier food expo in South Dakota. This year, the 18th, The Big Grape is featuring eleven regions of wine and cuisine plus all proceeds benefit Avera Children’s Hospital. With food, micro brews, live music and a silent auction, the Big Grape proves worthy of the $135 price of admission and benefits a commendable cause. Be sure to learn more about the “Little Grapes;” the children whose stories are the face of the event. Their strength and courage make the event personal for everyone involved.

Jennifer Bumke has been with Avera since 2008 and has seen the event evolve over the past nine years.  “When the Big Grape started we were one of the only fundraising wine tastings out there. We try to keep it fresh annually; and try to have a wide range of attendees. Some are there for the fine wine tasting and our silent auction which is popular as well.”

Party for the Planet | April 20, 2017 | Wichita, KS

Come celebrate Earth Day at the Sedgwick County Zoo. The annual event promotes conservation, environmental responsibility and provides a wealth of knowledge on wildlife and ecological stability. It is a free event, so bring the kids out to enjoy Earth Day.

Paisley Park Prince Celebration | April 20-23, 2017 | Chanhassen, MN

Come celebrate the late great Prince at his private estate. Visitors will get a chance to see his recording studio and pieces from Prince’s personal archives, including iconic concert wardrobe, awards, musical instruments, artwork, rare music and video recordings. Celebrate the life and legacy of one of Minnesota’s most treasured artists but be prepared to pay. Tickets for general admission are $549 and VIP passes are $999.

Red River Valley Motorcycle Show | April 22-23, 2017 | Grand Forks, ND

Held each spring the Red River Valley Motorcycle Show encourages enthusiasts, owners and, builders to partake in the festivities. The show itself is a fundraising event for local charities – since 2001 Red River Valley Motorcycles has donated more than $335,000. This year all proceeds from the show will go to Third Street Clinic, which provides healthcare, medicine and other vital services to underserved residents, and the Grand Forks Mission’s Backpack Program, which provides meals for children in need.

Admission is $5 and the show will have local vendors, sponsors and live music, in addition to prizes given out to those with the best bikes. There is still time to enter bikes and become a sponsor.

Timothy Gowam, the President of the Red River Valley Motorcycle Club, is conducting his 10th and final show and has fond memories of the past decade.

“In 2010 we had a competition with the local firefighters to see who could sell the most tickets for a motorcycle we were raffling off,” Gowam said. We ended up raising and giving out $80,000 to fire departments within a 100 mile radius of Grand Forks. That was one of our most attended events with over 5,000 people.” While the feeling is bittersweet, Gowam knows that change is necessary for growth. “It’s time for somebody else, it’s all volunteer so you get out what you put in,” Gowan said. It was a fun time but it is time for someone else with more new ideas to have some of the fun.”

Simply Music, Simply Mushrooms Morel Festival | April 23-24, 2017 | Morgantown, IN

This little mushroom has a magical flavor, grows for one month and is highly coveted. There are communities devoted to hunting the morel mushroom and because they are in such short supply, it creates a morel dilemma. This festival is home to music, mushrooms and six morel hunts for those looking to get in on the fun. From those new to the trade to veterans, anyone can participate in the search for the mushroom that has been described as tasting like fish.

Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival | April 27-29, 2017 | Marshfield, MO

Each year, people flock to Washington D.C.; to see the cherry blossoms bloom. Getting to D.C. may be a trek but Marshfield, Missouri has the Midwest covered. The Cherry Blossom Festival is open to the public and is free with the exception of food. Come to Missouri and celebrate the arrival of warmer weather with the sight of cherry blossoms.

Bach Week Festival | April 28, 2017 | Chicago, IL

This Chicago festival is entering its 44th year and is still going strong. Bach Week is a spring rite of passage for the area and the go-to in the Midwest to hear the finest historical music replicated. Prices vary between entry to see individual groups or the entire event, but there will be no shortage of history, music and food for all who attend.

Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Championship | April 29, 2017 | Dodgeville, WI

Wisconsin is known for their cheese, so having a grilled cheese championship is a no-brainer. There will be no shortage of enjoyment as this competition enters its 6th year.

“This is a unique opportunity to experience the cheese and dairy industry of Wisconsin in a competition setting,” said Lynn Price, executive director of the Dodgeville Area Chamber of Commerce. “We challenge amateurs and professional chefs to concoct delicious grilled cheese sandwiches – a connection of that warm comfort food with the industries that make us special. What better way to melt food and people together than with a family-friendly afternoon in Wisconsin?”

VIP tickets are sold out, but the event is free to the public

Nebraska Renaissance Faire & Medieval Pageant | April 29-30, 2017 | Omaha, NE

Omaha is getting a head start on the Renaissance faire season – usually reserved for the summer months – with their 15th annual event. As a bonus, the 10th annual Pirate Festival is at the same time, featuring merchants, food, music and costumes. Between the two you can celebrate 16th century Europe and 18th century Caribbean buccaneer in one weekend. Admission for children at $5 and $12 for adults.