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Highlands festival celebrates Appalachian cultures


A good time to schedule a trip to Virginia is early August during the Virginia Highlands Festival in Abingdon. The festival, which opened yesterday and runs through Aug. 16, is one of the state's most popular festivals, attracting thousands of visitors from all over the country and even from abroad.

This year marks its 44th anniversary, which means it is one of the state's oldest festivals as well. It is a celebration of the cultural traditions of the Appalachian region, with hundreds of events, including concerts, art and photography shows, traditional and modern dance performances, storytelling, theater and comedy. Educational programs with lectures on history and workshops on Appalachian music and literature are new features.

Always popular is the antique market, which is open each day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Virginia Highlands Community College. This year's market is the largest ever, with 200 dealers selling their wares under four large tents. Admission is $1.50; free for under 12. A double-decker bus shuttles visitors between the college and the downtown area. On Main Street an arts and crafts show is set up on Barter Green, offering a wide range of items and demonstrations from traditional to modern. You'll find stages with entertainment ranging from bagpipes to bluegrass, pops to classical, as well as square dancing, folk dancing, storytelling, comedy and theater. Hot air balloons, carriage rides, an antique car show, a food festival, house tours, garden tours and a kitchen tour are among the other attractions. For some there are admission charges, but most are free.

In addition to festival activities you'll find the Barter Theatre, one of the oldest theaters in the United States, with two running productions and a children's play during the day. You can also enjoy hiking, bird watching, horseback riding or biking along the Virginia Creeper Trail from dawn to dusk.

5) For information, call (703) 628-8141.

Lancaster marks 250th year

The summer-long 250th birthday celebration of Lancaster, Pa., concludes next weekend with two days of events that focus on Lancaster's ethnic diversity.

Three separate events will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday within the four-block downtown area between Penn Square and Lancaster Square. The Celebration of Cultures features a full-day of non-stop entertainment, music, dance, crafts and food by 20 of the city's ethnic communities. At the same time clowns, puppets, mimes, face painters and other street performers will take part in a street fair. The Lancaster Recreation Commission sponsors the third event, People at Play, which offers fun for all ages in the form of pie-eating contests, line dancing workshops, aerobics, martial arts, double Dutch jump rope, a playground talent show and other kinds of urban recreation. That evening there will be a service of celebration at 7 p.m. in Lancaster Square.

On Sunday the celebration continues with a day of music at Long's Park off U.S. Route 30. Local groups will perform in a variety of musical styles from noon to 7 p.m. At 8 p.m. Roberta Flack will appear in concert. The evening concludes with a giant fireworks display. Food will be available in the park, or you can bring your own picnic. All events are free.

For information, call (800) 735-2629, Ext. 2333.

Pennsylvania Dutch festival

The Goschenhoppen Festival in East Greenville, Pa., continues to provide a picture of the lifestyles of the early Pennsylvania Dutch. You'll find more than 500 skilled and apprentice craftspeople, dressed in Colonial costume, engaged in the skills of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The event takes place Friday and Saturday among the 10 acres of the New Goschenhoppen Park on Third Street off Pennsylvania Route 29. You can see more than 150 traditional crafts, including gunsmithing, rope making, sheep shearing and home building, in which tools of the period are used. This year's theme is "Horses and Horse Power," with demonstrations of harnessing, blacksmithing, talks on old-time veterinary practices and exhibits of wagons and other horse-drawn vehicles.

A full schedule of stage programs includes demonstrations, lectures and band concerts. There will be old-fashioned games for children, an old-fashioned church supper and Pennsylvania Dutch food for sale.

Hours are noon to 8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $5 for adults; free for children under 12. For information, call (215) 234-8953.

Pittsburgh regatta

The Three Rivers Regatta will be held Thursday through next Sunday at Point State Park in Pittsburgh. This family-style festival of land, air and water activities is the largest event of its kind in the country. There are no admission fees.

Situated on a point where Pittsburgh's three rivers converge, the park offers the perfect setting for events like the "Sea Ray" Tournament of Champions, a competition that combines surfing and waterskiing skills; a boat show; and fun races, such as the annual Rubber Ducky Race and the Anything That Floats Race. The highlight of the festival is the Formula One Grand Prix, which brings some of the world's top Formula One drivers to Pittsburgh.

You can also watch daredevil stunts by the Army Golden Knights, free-fall formation parachutists; a hot air balloon classic, with over 30 giant hot air balloons competing; fireworks, and a laser show.

Bands, floats, decorated water craft and Disney characters will parade down Grant Street to the park Saturday at 9 a.m. The festival will conclude each day with an evening concert.

5) For information, call (412) 261-7055.

Fiddler's convention

The Deer Creek Fiddler's Convention will be back at the Farm Museum in Westminster today from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., rain or shine.

The public is invited to bring lawn chairs and picnic blankets for a relaxing day of bluegrass and old-time music. Musicians from around the region will perform on fiddles, mandolins, banjos, guitars and other instruments as they compete for $3,000 in cash prizes. The Cub Hill Cloggers will entertain during the intermissions at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. There will also be tours of the farmhouse, craft vendors, and fried chicken platters for sale along with many other food favorites.

Admission is $7 for ages 18 and over; free for those under 18 accompanied by a paying adult. For information, call (410) 876-2667 or (800) 654-4645.

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