Some of My Favorite Summer Events

I love summer in the city. Salt Lake City is full of great, dynamic cultural and social events through the summer months, most of which are free. July is particularly well stocked. Here are a few of the upcoming offerings which my wife and I enjoy.

Tonight and tomorrow, we’ll be taking in the Salt Lake City International Jazz Festival. I’m no huge fan of jazz music specifically, but I love broadening my musical experience at this acclaimed festival. Many national music critics have noted that this is one of the better music festivals in the nation—and unlike many of its peers, its free! Last year we took in a fascinating Japanese Jazz fusion with a choreographed Odaiko (a Japanese drum) performance and extensive use of the Koto (the surfboard with strings). Very fascinating.

We are able to take in a lot of music here during the summer. Starting last night (though we were unable to attend) was the Twilight Concert Series at Gallivan Plaza. They showcase a wide variety of musical styles, all free of charge, every Thursday night at 7:00 through Aug 23. Last year we were impressed by a very good Pink Floyd cover band, a Latin band, and a wild zydeco band.

And you have a choice for your Thursday night music experience. The Sprague branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library hosts the Sounds of Summer concert series on the patio every Thursday night at 7:00. Smaller and more intimate, the Sounds of Summer series concentrates on local groups and individuals playing folk, classical, and traditional acoustic music. The Anderson-Foothill branch hosts the similar concert series, Concerts by the Creek, at their creekside amphitheater on Wednesdays.

Evenings aren’t the only option for your musical entertainment. Through September 14, you can take your lunch at Gallivan for the Lunch Bunch concert series.

If you like movies, you don’t need to pay big bucks to go to the local megaplex. Gallivan Plaza again hosts the Sundance Outdoor Film Festival, showing selected films every Monday at nightfall.

Like the Blues? It costs $5, but the Summertime Blues concert at Gallivan is a great opportunity to take in some great national blues talent here in SLC.

Everyone in Utah knows about the Days of ‘47 parade. But that is hardly the end of the city’s celebrations. We’ve made the Native American Celebration in the Park a tradition. A number of bands of various ethnicities and genres perform at various stages, fun festival food abounds, and members of Native American tribes from around the region hold an intertribal powwow in full regalia. Hang around until dark, and you can watch the local fireworks. Its always extremely hot, but very enriching and a great way to freshen up the traditional pioneer-oriented celebrations.

Want something a little more exotic? How about the Kismet Belly Dancing Festival at the Utah Cultural Heritage Center, August 17-18? The Charge is only $5, quite a bargain for this exhibition of an ancient art form.

We were a bit disappointed with it last year, but in years past we’ve rather enjoyed the Salt Lake American Muslim Festival, August 25-26 at Washington Square. Focused both on developing mutual respect and understanding between the various ethnic and religious communities in SLC, and on improving awareness of and support for low-income service providers, the festival hosts a number of performers and boths which potentially can host some fascinating dialogues.

And I could hardly neglect to mention the local farmers markets. There are many around the state and county, but the one with which I’m familiar is the Downtown Farmer’s Market. You can purchase not only locally grown produce, but also locally (and typically organically and otherwise progressively) produced soaps, breads, jams, honeys, and even arts and crafts. Even if you have no intention of purchasing anything, it is a great place for a walk to see the sights and people watch.

Why mention these events? Why bother with them? We have all sorts of modern entertainment opportunities right in the comfort of our homes. With TV, cable, satellite service, personal CD and DVD collections, Netflix, the internet, MMORGs, X-box, Game cube, Wii, et al, already in our plush, air-conditioned houses, what reason is there to leave the comfort of home to be entertained?

It is precisely because of all those marvelous technological innovations that we need to be reminded of the importance of social recreation. As much as I enjoy my online friends and the opportunity to get to know people across the nation and even planet, virtual relationships can never provide the connections which face to face interaction with tangible people do. As Robert Putnam pointed out in his book Bowling Alone, the ties which held us together in communities are fraying as we rush to take advantage of modern communication, transportation, and entertainment developments.

This is not how we are made to be. Humanity is a social species. We have typically gathered in communities, rather than seek out isolation. Religiously speaking, God does not call for his followers to disperse to live as hermits in solitary contemplation. Whenever he has manifested himself, in prior dispensations and modern, he has called on his followers to gather together, to become a family. As we go out and socialize, participating in community service or recreational events, we strengthen those ties, meet others with whom we might never normally associate, hear different viewpoints, broaden our persectives, and learn to grow in empathy and love.

There are simply too many wonderful experiences out there waiting to happen to sit here writing this blog (scintillating as it is). Things to do and people to see, you know! Check with your local community and see what catches your eye. And if you have a particular social event you love, post a comment. I’d love to hear about some new gem.

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