Many of us don't feel much like partying these days, but economic freefall notwithstanding, a little revelry never hurt anybody.
Michael Guerriero, author of the new Party Across America! 101 of the Greatest Festivals, Sporting Events, and Celebrations in the U.S. (Adams media.com, $12.95), aims to point us in the direction of the nation's biggest bashes.
Criteria for inclusion in the book were simple. First, it had to be a yearly event repeated in the same place. Second, it had to exude high-watt energy — "something the entire town or city looked forward to," he says.
And so, after being laid off from his pharmaceutical marketing job in late 2007, the 32-year-old Fort Collins, Colo., resident collected his severance pay, climbed in his Subaru Outback and hit the road ready to par-tay.
His party-hopping road trip, along with similar jaunts that began a decade earlier, covered 11,951 miles and forms the basis for this practical guide to attending major festivals (New Orleans Mardi Gras, the Daytona 500) as well as lesser-known ones (Fur Rendezvous in Anchorage; Freakfest in Madison, Wis.).
Along the way, Guerriero discovered that in a Starbucks-on-every-corner era of creeping homogeneity, these time-tested festivals lend a distinct flavor to their locales.
"These events tell an interesting story about the places they occur in," he says. "You can learn more about a place by going to one of these celebrations than you might from going to the usual (points of interest)."
Though Guerriero wanted to include events in all 50 states, four — Connecticut, North Dakota, Idaho and Arkansas — didn't make it. Nor did some high-profile doings, such as the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square.
"The cameras were rolling and the tourists were out. The ball dropped, and the cameras went off and everyone went home," he says. "It did not qualify as a great party."
Among the best, in Guerriero's book
Best musical bash:
Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., April 17-19. "The grounds were incredible, with art installations and laser beams shooting up. You feel like you've just walked into a Dr. Seuss book. And the music is top-notch." (coachella.com)
Most tempting food festival:
Taste of Chicago, two weeks in late June and early July. "I've never seen so many people come out to stuff themselves. The event is pure Chicago, and the food — pizza, steak, old-style beer — was wonderful." (tasteofchicago.us)
St. Patrick's Day in Butte, Mont., in the week leading up to March 17. "I had no idea how wild it was. It's a hoot. Butte was a huge copper mining boomtown in the 1870s, and (descendents) of the Irish miners are still there. It's like nothing I've seen before. The party is out on the streets of the entire city. For days."
Most bizarre confab:
The World's Largest Disco in Buffalo, held the Saturday after Thanksgiving. "It's the biggest weekend of the year in Buffalo. They sell out 8,000 tickets in about 72 hours. The convention center is packed, and people are disco dancing and having a great time." (worldslargestdisco.com)
Most surprising celebration:
Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa, Feb. 7 (but usually the last Saturday in January). "It's a re-enactment of a pirate invasion, where the ship sails in, the mayor hands over the keys to the city, and a 500,000-person moving block party results." (gasparillapiratefest.com)