Some kind of magic switch seems to have gotten flipped. With summer here, Connecticut turns into a sunny wonderland of outdoor music festivals, county fairs, regional food shindigs and other finely focused affairs. Celebrate the seasonal joys of everything – from strawberries, to oysters, to jerk chicken, to bluegrass, to all kinds of jazz, to reggae, blues, outdoor theater, dance, and whatever else floats your boat. Here’s our rundown of the state’s big festivals. Get out the sun screen and the folding chairs.
Annual Milford Oyster Festival, Town Green and Fowler Field, Milford, (203) 878-5363, milfordoysterfestival.org. Aug. 19-20. Food, music, history, harbor activities, stuff for kids and more.
Antique and Classic Boat Rendezvous, Mystic Seaport, 75 Greenmanville Ave., Mystic, (888) 973-2767, mysticseaport.org. July 23-24. Gathering of pre-1965 wooden sail and motorboats, with a three-mile boat parade.
Cajun Zydeco Festival: Blast From the Bayou, Strawberry Park, 42 Pierce Rd., Preston, (888) 794-7944, strawberrypark.net/cajun-zydeco-festival. June 9-12. 15th annual festival featuring cajun/zydeco music, food and dancing from the bayous and cities of Louisiana. Camping available.
Capital Classics Shakespeare Festival — Richard III, Saint Joseph College, 1678 Asylum Ave., West Hartford, (860) 231-5555, capitalclassics.org. July 28-Aug. 14. David Watson directs a compelling presentation of Shakespeare's historical drama featuring one of the theatre's most reviled villains: King Richard.
Chester Fair, Chester Fairgrounds, Rte. 154, Chester, (860) 526-5947, chesterfair.org. Aug. 26-28. Agricultural fair with livestock shows, animal pulls, live music, arts and crafts expos, games and more.
CitiCenter Danbury Summer Series, Danbury Green, Downtown Danbury, (203) 792-1711, citycenterdanbury.com. June 18: The Danbury Symphony Orchestra. July 8: The Sixties Show. July 9: The Larry Ayce Band. July 15: Philly LoPresti and the Clark Eno Orchestra. July 16: Future Tense. July 22: Kashmir. July 23: Gunsmoke. July 29: Cross Purpose. July 20: Eight to the Bar. Aug. 5: Abraxis. Aug. 6: Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra. Aug. 11: Afrikan Drumming. Aug. 12: Beyond the Wall. Aug. 13: Jai-Ho India Festival. Aug. 19: Tusk: Fleetwood Mac Tribute. Aug. 20: Roxy Perry. Aug. 26: Limelight. Aug. 27: The Glamour Girls. Sept. 10 & 11: Brian Howe of Bad Company.
Clinton Bluefish Festival, Andrews Memorial Town Hall, 54 E. Main St., Clinton, clintonbluefishfest.com. July 22-23. Annual festival features a talent competition, kids' activities, fishing tournament, chowder cook-off and more.
Connecticut Ballet's 30th Anniversary Dance Caravan, Mortensen Riverfront Plaza, 300 Columbus Boulevard, Hartford, Aug. 13, 7:30 p.m. Other locations throughout CT, July 16-Aug. 27. (860) 713-3131, connecticutballet.com/season.
Connecticut Free Shakespeare: The Three Musketeers, (203) 393-3213, ctfreeshakespeare.org. July 20-31: Beardsley Zoo, 1875 Noble Ave., Bridgeport, 8 p.m. August 3-7: Guilford Green, Guilford, 7:30 p.m.
Connecticut Folk Festival and Green Expo, Edgerton Park and other venues, ctfolk.com. Sept. 9-11. Live folk music and eco-friendly educational programs and activities.
Connecticut's Historic Garden Day & Riverwood Poetry Festival, The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, 77 Forest St., Hartford, (860) 522-9258, harrietbeecherstowe.org. June 26, 12-4 p.m. Stroll the gardens and try your hand at plein-air painting, performances by local spoken-word poets. Free.
Connecticut Irish Festivals Feis and Agricultural Fair, North Haven Fairgrounds, Washington Ave. (Rte. 5), North Haven, (203) 469-3080, ctirishfestival.com. June 25-26. Irish step-dancing, live music, Irish sports for kids, petting zoo and more.
Connecticut Wine Festival, Route 53, Goshen Fairgrounds, (860) 677-5467, ct.wine.com, July 30 and 31. Fourteen vintners, specialty foods and crafts, plus musical entertainment.
Durham Fair, Durham Fairgrounds, 24 Town House Rd., Durham, (860) 349-9495, durhamfair.com. Sept. 22-25. Live music, food, carnival rides, animal exhibits, art shows and more. Concerts by KC and the Sunshine Band, Blues Traveler and Steel Magnolia.
Fairfield County Irish Festival, Fairfield University, 1073 N. Benson Rd., Fairfield, irishfestival.org. June 17-19. All things Irish, including music, step dancing, food, Gaelic football, vendors, crafts and more.
Friday Film Festival, William Benton Museum of Art, 245 Glenbrook Rd., Storrs, (860) 486-4520, thebenton.org. June 24-July 22, Fridays at 12:15 p.m. A different film shown every two weeks, including Who Gets to Call It Art?, Exit Through the Gift Shop and Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock?
Gathering of the Vibes, Seaside Park, Bridgeport. (203) 908-3030, gatheringofthevibes.com. July 21-24. Seaside Park, Bridgeport. Annual summer music, camping and arts festival, celebrates the Grateful Dead & showcases a variety of music.
Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz, Bushnell Park, Hartford, (860) 727-0500, hartfordjazz.com. July 15-17. Hartford's popular downtown jazz festival returns with live music by local, national and international jazz musicians playing crowd-pleasing jazz favorites and original compositions. Free.
Guilford Art Center Craft Expo 2011, Guilford Green, Rte. 1, Guilford, (203) 453-5947, guilfordartcenter.org. July 14-17. Juried works by diverse craft artists, eats and more.
Guilford Rotary Lobster Fest, Guilford Fairgrounds, Lovers Ln., Guilford, guilfordrotarylobsterfest.com. June 25, 4:30-8 p.m. Maine lobsters, steak, corn, baked potatoes, beverages and desserts. Tickets must be purchased by June 17.
Haddam Neck Fair, Haddam Neck Fairgrounds, 26 Quarry Hill Rd., Haddam Neck, (860) 267-5922, haddamneckfair.com. Sept. 2-5. Food, carnival rides and games, live entertainment and more.
Harriet Beecher Stowe's 200th Birthday, The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, 77 Forest St., Hartford, (860) 522-9258, harrietbeecherstowe.org. June 11, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. A community open house befitting a 200th birthday celebration — house tours, an interactive community art project, horse and carriage rides, readings from Uncle Tom's Cabin, lawn games, garden painting and birthday cake. Free.
Hartford Symphony Orchestra's Talcott Mountain Festival, Performing Arts Center at Simsbury Meadows, Iron Horse Blvd, Simsbury, (860) 244-2999, hartfordsymphony.org. June 24, 7:30 p.m.: Summer Begins! Stirring classical program selected by new music director Carolyn Kuan. Celebrate America! July 1, 7:30 p.m.: The Annual Red, White & Blue Tradition. Kuan leads the orchestra in a program of American classics, thundering marches and a fantastic display of fireworks to celebrate our nation's independance. July 8, 7:30 p.m.: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. See the Symphony and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy perform a New Orleans swing concert in the tradition of legendary big bands. July 15, 7:30 p.m.: The Music of Michael Jackson, Celebrate the King of Pop's 40-year musical career, beginning with songs from the Jackson 5 through the HIStory album.