It's almost summer, and that means fun festivals for many cities. Though these festivals are often nonprofit events in themselves, they can mean a huge boost in tourism - and money - for the cities hosting them. Here are some of the biggest festivals, and ways their host cities benefit financially. (Use holiday time to teach your children about earning, saving and spending money. Learn how, in Summer: Time For Teaching Your Kids About Money.)
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- New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival: April 23-May 2
The city of New Orleans has seen its share of catastrophes, with hurricane Katrina most notable, but its resilient spirit is evident in the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Better known as Jazz Fest, the festival started in 1970 with an attendance of 350, which has since grown to over 400,000. Twelve stages host the world's biggest names in jazz, blues, gospel and a variety of other music, while Louisiana food and craft booths fill up Congo Square and Louisiana Marketplace. For 2010, the festival boasts names like Simon & Garfunkel, Lionel Richie and Pearl Jam.
Ticket Cost: $50 a ticket at the gate
Benefits to New Orleans: For this struggling city, Jazz Fest is only topped by Mardi Gras as a tourist-drawing event. Tourism is New Orleans' largest source of income, adding $210 million to the city's budget every year. (Use the easy tips in Preparing For Nature's Worst to protect your financial interests from natural disasters.)
- Taste of Chicago: June 24-July 4
If you're into food, the Taste of Chicago annual festival is the place to be. Each year, Grant Park becomes a lively conglomeration of concerts, crafts and, of course, many food vendors where attendees can taste local and exotic cuisine. The festival has its roots in 1980, when it started as a one-day Fourth of July food celebration. Taste of Chicago has since grown to a more than week-long event, with an estimated attendance of almost 3.5 million people.
Ticket Cost: The festival and concerts are free. To taste food, you must buy tickets, which run 12 for $8.
Benefits to Chicago: Although attending the festival is free, Chicago sees a strong boost in tourism income from hotel expenditures (rooms run $200+ a night in the city), food and related travel spending by tourists. With the festival's close proximity to the Fourth of July, visitors are likely to stay on. The city sees over $10 billion in tourism-related revenue annually. (Learn to trim the fat from your grocery bill and reduce the impact of food cost on your budget, in 22 Ways To Fight Rising Food Prices.)
- Independence Day Celebration in Washington D.C.: July 4
What better place to celebrate Independence Day than in our nation's capitol? Washington D.C. takes the Fourth of July to a full day of events, with the Smithsonian Folklore Festival, and orchestra and organ concerts. The day is topped by fireworks over the Washington Monument.
Ticket Cost: Free
Benefit to Washington D.C.: Tourism is big business for Washington D.C., with July being its peak month. Visitors keep more than 71,000 people employed, and bring $5.64 billion to America's capitol. (Getting to and around your travel destination doesn't need to break the bank. Find out how to travel on a budget, in Save On Planes, Trains And Automobiles.)
- Oswego Harborfest: July 22-25
Harborfest started as a small local event in Oswego, NY, and quickly grew to the big summer festival it is today. With its many children's and family events like the Children's Parade, the festival draws families mostly from the local area (roughly 80%), and entertains with food, music and fireworks in the city's harbor. Harborfest boasts an attendance of 250,000.
Ticket Cost: Free
Benefits to Oswego: Harborfest brings $32 million to Oswego, and keeps 637 people employed. (Keep the kids out of your hair and wallet by saving on summer camps, sports leagues, day trips and more. Learn how in Budget-Friendly Summer Fun.)
- Iowa State Fair: August 12-22
When it comes to its state fair, Iowa goes big in every way, with more than 600 exhibitors and concession stands, plus one of the world's largest livestock shows. The Iowa State Fair has been running since 1854, with more than 1 million visitors annually enjoying the festivities. For 2010, the fair has chosen the theme of "Non-Stop Fun," with musical performances by Kelly Clarkson and Brooks & Dunne.
Ticket Cost: $7 a day.
Benefits to Iowa: As the most prominent state fair in the Midwest, the Iowa State Fair draws a large crowd. The state's 105 fairs net more than $227 million for Iowa every year.
- Bumbershoot (Seattle, WA): September 4-6
Bumbershoot (slang for umbrella) has been the music and arts event of Seattle since 1971. Held at the Seattle Center, Bumbershoot showcases dance, music and hosts of other arts every Labor Day weekend, with an attendance topping 150,000.
Ticket Cost: Starts at $60 for the three-day event.
Benefits to Seattle: In a rough economy, the state of Washington counts on its tourism to keep more than 149,000 people employed - with Seattle generating more than $5 billion annually from tourists' spending. (Find out why moving to a less expensive city may not reduce your expenses, in 10 Reasons Why Moving Might Not Make You Richer.)
Thinking of going to one of these festivals? They're fun, and often free, which makes it a great outing if you're within driving distance. Something else to feel good about: your attendance keeps city budgets afloat, and people employed at a time when jobs are hard to come by. These festivals are a win-win for everyone, and a great deal of summer fun to boot.
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