Joshua Tree Music Festival

  

joshuatreemusicfestival

The Joshua Tree Music Festival is a bi-annual event occurring in Spring and Fall every year in the Mojave Desert. It was formed in 2003 and now, every May and October, allowing artists and musicians to bring together lovers of creativity in a small and intimate festival environment. The quirky national park has inspired many artists and musicians over the year, dotted with unusual fauna and wide open spaces that allow one to think.

The festivals focus on creating a family friendly environment which connects the artists to the festival attendees with passionate performers in a small setting. Performers are not separated from audience which further enhances the intimate setting. The organisers look for up and coming artists over the larger names, and the organisers hope that instead of attendees only watching their favourite artists, that they will discover a new unheard of favourite and will further support up and coming and often struggling musicians who are battling a difficult industry. Many artists who perform are being heard for the first time. The music is spread over two stages, however the musical acts alternate between them so that it is possible to see every artist without the magic ability to be in two places at once.
The stages and audience sections are well protected from the desert sun, and with small audience numbers and venues, it is possible to get up close to the stage and to have excellent visuals of the artists, instead of watching them on a TV screen from the back of a field.
Children under 10 are able to attend the festival for free and there is plenty to occupy the kids with, such as a dedicated “Kid Zone” which is particularly good for those camping with their children. Everybody of all ages is welcome to the festival, and everybody is well accommodated for.
There are lots of events to developing self-awareness, from yoga classes, a “Positive Vibration Station”, Random acts of mindfulness and a plethora of visual arts. The organisers want attended to immerse themselves in hippy culture and caring communities, and to leave the event feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, unlike other festivals which induce week long hangovers and leaver attendees in a recovery mode. Alongside this, there is plenty of art workshops, murals, sculptures, projected visuals and craft markets run by and in support of local communities. Organic food is abundant, and there is a strong focus on sustainability and healthy eating.
It is organised by a group of friends who believe that “music is the soul of life, and that art enriches and saves lives” and attracts around 4000 attendees to every event. Alongside the two annual festivals, there is now the Guitarfish Music Festival every July that runs in association with the organisers of the Joshua Tree Music Festival.
Camping and lodging is all available. More details on up and coming events as well as locations and accomodation opportunities can all be found on the event's official website (http://www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com).

 

Ladies of Hip Hop Festival

  

ladiesofhiphop

The Ladies of Hip Hop Festival is a celebration of the female characters dominating the hip hop music scene. The mission of the organisers is to allow women to express, learn, and share their voice by giving them the freedom and space and support to do so. The festival places the women centre stage, challenging the traditional mentality that men own the hop hop scene.

Executive Director Michelle, while working in the industry on a number of music videos, studios and theatre productions, realised there were only small opportunities for women in the industry as they were often in the shadow of the men, so she created a safe and neutral zone which allowed women to express themselves and to create opportunities which don't discriminate against gender. Despite accomplishing so much in her career and being such an important character for women in the hip hop industry, Michelle has had no formal training, forging her own path, and has become a motivational example for women that proves that a strong and independent lady can become successful in the hip hop scene.
Originally a dance training programme in 2004, the group behind the festival have evolved to become a driving force for supporting women in hip hop culture. As well as running three different Ladies of Hip Hop Festivals, LOHHF offers workshops, performance opportunities, international artist exchanges and public seminars and talks. While focussed very much in America, LOHHF have started building strong international connections and even took the festival to Austria in 2011. They debuted over three sold out evenings of shows and panel discussions to critical acclaim and praise.
The New York festival occurs every July, although dates can fluctuate and it is best to check the website first for confirmation. The festival is a combination of music, dancing workshops, dancing performances, panel discussions about gender equality and about expanding the narrow lens which women in the industry are viewed, dance battles between some of the most talented female dancers from all over the world, female DJ sets and showcases.
There is also an event that the festival labels as “Ladies Battle” where female competitors from all over the world travel to New York to compete in a dance-off. There are six different categories - Hip-Hop, Waacking, House, Dancehall, Popping and Breaking, which all come with a $500 cash prize as well as the highly essential bragging rights of being able to proclaim yourself as one of the world's best female hip hop dancers. The music is provided for this event by a lineup of all female DJs playing a variety of different genres such as funk and house, and is judged by elite dancers from around the world. This takes place in The Knockdown Centre on Flushing Avenue.
The festival website (ladiesofhiphopfestival.com) includes information and ticket prices for the event, as well as a dedicated blog which connects fans of the art with some of the artists through specialised and intimate interviews. Here, they also promote tours and performances from friends of the festival and from female artists and up to date news about the company and about the upcoming events.

 

Yosemite National Park

  

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite, in Northern California, is one of the original three national parks that existed in the US. It is an area of immense natural beauty, including massive granite cliffs, luscious sweeping valleys of rich vegetation, sequoia trees and even wild black bears. The dramatic landscape has been formed over millions of years by volcanic activity allowing the granite to inflate and swell, only to be carved away by glaciers flowing through the valley. The iconic Half Dome (as seen on Apple desktops worldwide) is a prime example of this geology, and the amazing nature attracts millions of visitors every year. Since 1984, it has been recognised as a world heritage site.

While most visitors will merely rock up to the view points in this national park, just to take a few photos and admire the view, there are a number of ways you can scratch just below the surface to have a more genuine experience. This is very much subject to which time of year you decide to visit and what physical activities you are interested in.
Between mid December and March there are several winter trails available. You can navigate these with your skis and snowboards or snowshoes depending on the snowfall and which routes you decide to take. Normally there isn't enough snow to support skiing and snowboarding, but if you're lucky, you will get to experience the national park in ways that very few get the chance to. Yosemite is actually home to the oldest downhill skiing area in California, and lessons, rentals, lift tickets, tubing an sledding are all available in the national park. You can refer to the national park website (https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wintersports.htm) for more details.
If you visit in summer, there is no need to lament because there are a number of amateur astronomy clubs that observe the night sky from the Glacier Point Amphitheater, endorsed by the National park Service. Where Yosemite is so far away from the nearest city lights, when the clouds give way to what lies beyond, Yosemite offers some very clear, and some very awe inspiring skies. All along Glacier Point, especially on Saturdays, people set up telescopes to watch what is happening light years away from us. Bring along a star chart and spend a few hours inventing your own constellations and wondering what else could lie beyond our atmosphere. Astronomy walks also occur in Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne Meadows and Wawona.
For those interested in Art and Photography, as Yosemite is such an amazing place that offers endless inspiration to those who try to capture it, there are art classes offered in Spring through to Fall in the Yosemite Art centre which is situated near the village store. There is Museum Gallery which exhibits work during Spring and summer, and which also offers photography walks, workshops and classes throughout the year.
However you choose to experience Yosemite, it is worth a quick visit to the national park website to understand what is available when you go. If nothing else, you will experience an area of unimaginably amazing scenery and a point of essential history to the beginnings of the national park service in the US.

 

Winter in the US

  
skiing

While many people will by tying their skis to the car roof and setting off for the Canadian border, there are plenty of great places to partake in winter sports in the USA.

One of the most popular and famous destinations for winter sports in the US is Aspen. Located in The Rocky Mountains in Colorado, it is a ski resort town at 7908ft elevation. While open for skiing and snowboarding in the winter months, it is also popular for hikers and mountaineers during the summer months, and boasts a plethora of outdoor activities all year. The area is a collective of two townships and four mountains, and can all be accessed using one lift ticket. Easy navigation and slopes of all abilities make this a fantastic winter destination.
For those wanting to get their adrenaline kicks in a unique fashion, it's worth spending some time this winter at Grand Lake in Colorado. This is the perfect location to try out snowmobiling, with over 300 square miles of terrain, 150 of which are specially maintained for those wanting a tame ride, and the other half are left more wild for those more experienced riders. There are trails that suit all abilities, all amongst the picturesque setting of the Colorado Rockies.
For those who love winter hiking and snowshoeing, the Glacier National Park in Montana has a numb er of trails, ranging between 6 and 40 miles long. The national park is filled with dramatic landscapes, glacier carved valleys and peaks, huge and colourful lakes, and if a great place to lose yourself in the rockies.
For those with younger kids, or who have trouble standing up on their skis and snowboards, Keystone in Colorado offers a fantastic tubing hill. This is where the rider sits in an inflatable ring and slides down the slope. Keystone is particularly good because there is a dedicated conveyor belt to carry riders up the hill and the slope is kept under the watchful eye of safety workers.
For those who are willing to travel a little further, the traditional pastime of dog sledding is very popular in Alaska. This was originally a form of transport, but now attracts many visitors every year who want to get their winter vibes in a unique way. Professionals travel to Anchorage every year in March to compete in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Beginners can take sledding tours which are particularly popular around Church national Park and Juneau.
One of the best rated skiing resort to spend your annual winter holiday at is Jackson Hole in Wyoming. With ski slopes for all abilities, an arial tram to admire the mountainous scenery from and a lively ski town with plenty of accomodation and entertainment, the mountain has everything you could possibly need for a perfect ski holiday.
For anybody who would prefer to have a warm winter, you can always spend a holiday in Miami to chase away the cold. You don't have to cross the northern border to experience a fantastic white winter every year.

 

Vans Warped Tour

  
vanswarpedtour

The warped tour is a well established travelling rock festival based in the US including a few stops in Canada, and even the UK and a few other international locations on a few different occasions. It began in 1995 and has been an annual event ever since, making it the largest touring music festival in North America, as well as the longest running touring music festival in North America.

The festival encompasses a number of different genres of music from ska to hip hip, but the main focus is on rock, punk and metal. With so many once dedicated rock music festivals seeing a trend towards more popular genres of music such as pop and electronic, the Vans Warped Tour sticks very strongly to it's roots. The festival often includes performances from repeat artists such as NOFX, Anti-Flag and The Casualties, and other notable acts to grace the stage have been Echosmith, The Used, Yellowcard and The Dropkick Murphys. The warped tour is an important contributor the US music scene and has been attributed for bringing some now household names such as Paramore, Blink-182 and My Chemical Romance to the spotlight. There is a huge inflatable lineup at each festival that states the running order and stage locations of each artist which changes from city to city as no two festivals have exactly the same setup.
As well as traditional performances, there is a battle of the the bands on the tour every year, open for participants in lesser known or even completely unknown bands to enter. In 2005, over 10,000 bands entered. Those who are successful in the battle have the chance to perform the Ernie Ball Stage at the events. Some of the musicians performing on the tour like to give out music lessons to aspiring musicians in the crowds, and there is a dedicated mobile studio bus that helps with educating festival goers.
To coincide with the start of the tour, and to build up a lot of hype for the event, there is an official compilation album release which includes music from the 50 of the artists performing on the tour that year. This is simply called “Warped Tour Tour Compilation” and is distributed annually.
The festival also focusses a lot on charity and activism. There are opportunities to donate blood in exchange for for backstage passes, information and stands about non profit charities who are advocating their cause, and a strong encouragement to recycle. 25 cents from every ticket to the tour sold is donated to the Hollywood Heart charity, and the profits from the festival have also been contributed towards the Hurricane Katrina relief in the past. All festival busses uses bio-fuel in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of the festival.
The tour stops at a large number of major cities all over America during the course of the summer, and local details can be found on the festival website (vanswarpedtour.com). The festival organisers allow children to take a parent with them for free, and all ages are welcome to the tour.

 

US Open - Tennis

  
usopentennis

The US Open is the fourth and final instalment in the annual Grand Slam tournaments, beginning on the last Monday in August and lasting or two weeks, which means the middle weekend coincides with the Labor Day holiday.

Unlike the French Open which is played on clay, and Wimbledon which is played on grass, the US Open is played on a hard surface. The material is called Pro DecoTurf which is a multilayered cushioned surface which has slightly less friction and lower bounce qualities when compared to most hard courts. They are distinctively painted blue with white stripes to allow optimum viewing from the back of the stands and also on the television.
The event consists of five main championships spread over 22 courts and 2 weeks. The championships are the men's singles, the women's singles, the men's doubles, the women's doubles and also the mixed doubles. There are also additional tournaments for senior players, junior players, and wheelchair players. The event is hosted by USTA (the United States Tennis Association) at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre in New York City. Players compete for world rankings, a trophy and a cash prize, with the winners of the singles events taking home $3.5 million (figure from 2016) and adding 2000 points to their ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) and WTA (Women's Tennis Association) profiles.
As this is a Grand Slam event, you can always expect to see all of the top names in tennis competing, providing they are not recovering from an injury. Every year sees historic tennis records smashed and some tense edge of your seat action. It is a knockout tournament which sees a large number of competitors taking on each other in succession until only two remain to battle out in the final. The US Open is the only Grand Slam event that uses tie breakers in every set of the match, unlike the other events which only employ these in the last set. The event also makes use of the Hawk-Eye computer system to help with line call challenges and umpiring conflicts.
With spectator attendance reaching around the 700,000 mark yearly, this is a massive event on the ATP calendar. For those unable to attend the competition, there is excellent media coverage of all of the matches through ESPN and the Tennis Channel. Those who can attend the event have access to a range of formal and informal dining establishments, workshops and some world class tennis action. There are plenty of easy connections using public transport to get to the venue from all over New York with subway line 7 providing easy and convenient access. This is much easier than trying to fight your way against the traffic and to search for a car parking spot, although this is also possible.
Ticket pre-sales tend to start around June for the following event in August. More information can be found on the US open official website (usopen.org) including playing schedules, ticket prices and news from the tennis community.

US Grand Prix

  
formula1 us

Every year, as part of the Formula One circuit, a Grand Prix is held in Austin, Texas. This has been intermittently occurring since 1908, and since 2012 it has been hosted at the Circuit of the Americas in Elroy, which is close to the city of Austin.

Formula One, officially known as the FIA Formula One World Championship, is the highest class of single seat auto racing, and has been a vital part of the automotive world since it's birth in 1950, although there have been a number of similar competitions that preceded the official inauguration and happening alongside the F1 until 1983. It is a yearly circuit of races, referred to as Grand Prix, featuring 20 drivers competing in over 20 races internationally on purpose built raceways and occasionally on public roads. Formula One is also the most popular annual sporting series worldwide.
While Europe is the birthplace and the traditional base of Formula One racing, it has come across the sea to America where the competition encompassed the United States Grand Prix, originally known as the American Grand Prize, which has been happening intermittently since 1908. The circuit itself is 3.4 miles, and is completed 56 times by the racers during the event, and is one of the last races in the series.
The event in Austin attracts a lot visitors, and has been reported as very successful due to the unique atmosphere that the Texans provide coming from a cultural background of music and art. in 2016 the event had record attendance figures, seeing some 270,000 people enter the grounds, despite the return of the racing event in Mexico City which drew a lot of potential internal attendees south of the border. Despite suffering some funding cuts, the race seems to be going strong.
Attendees can not only expect some high class racing action and edge of your seat entertainment, but also a certain level of glamour and prestige. As soon as the race begins, driving is non-stop and exceeds 220 miles per an hour. The grounds are filled with spectators, celebrities, drivers and their teams, and the atmosphere is unforgettable. Outside of the race grounds, the city of Austin comes alive as bars and restaurants host parties and special events to accomodate for the spectators and to keep the atmosphere alive. The actual event last for three days, including practice runs, qualifying and the race itself, although the day preceding practice runs also sees a press conference at the race grounds and some promoter activities for three day ticket holders. Qualifying laps and practice runs are broken up by the Masters Historic Racing and the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup competitions to ensure a bit of diversity amongst events. The race concludes on the Sunday with the presentation of the trophies and the national anthems of the winning teams.
Accomodation and race entry packages are available through the grandprixevents.com website near to the start of the event, along with exact dates of all of the upcoming races on the Formula One circuit.

 

The Grand Canyon - Annual Art Competition

  

Grand Canyon Celebration of Art

The Grand Canyon is a natural cross section of geology that shows millions of years of history in it's rock faces. It covers almost 5000 square kilometres of land in the state of Arizona in the United States, and attracts millions of visitors every single year, and when you walk along the South Rim of the national park, it is very easy to understand what makes it so popular. Firstly, the size of it is just unfathomable. Photos will never do justice the emotion one feels when they first set their eyes upon it. After a few minutes you can begin to watch the colours change as the clouds cast shadows over the iridescent landscape of striking red rock against lush green valleys. If you stay for a few hours, as the day progresses, you will see it in an entirely new light and in a new mood. It is an ever changing canvas of natural beauty.

Every year, the Grand Canyon Association hosts an event called The Grand Canyon Celebration of Art which starts as six days of art related events followed by a three month exhibition in Kolb Studio, situation on the South Rim of the National Park. The initial six days occur every September with the exhibition stretching until January the following year.
The artists trying to capture this area of unimaginable beauty work in the medium of plein art. The term derives from the French term “En plein air” which simply means the act of painting outdoors, as opposed to studio painting. This allows artists to work with the real time natural light that they see around this, and became particularly popular in the 19th century with the impressionist movement. As paints became portable (as before being available in tubes artists would have to create their own), the medium became more common, and can be seen by artists such as Monet and Pissarro.
The artists compete in a plein air painting competition in view of the park visitors and residents as they try to represent the national park. Such a huge and striking landscape is very difficult to photograph, yet alone paint, and some of the results are just as dramatic as the canyon itself. Each artist brings a studio piece with them and then spends some time in various sections of the national park (South Rim, NorthRim, Phantom Ranch and at the Indian Garden) creating more work and experiencing the national park in different lighting and weather conditions.
At the end of the week of painting, the artists place their work in an auction which is sold off at a quick draw event in the Grand Canyon Village. An exhibition of the work is then displayed in the Kolb Studio for three months.
The national park itself is open all year to visitors, although some walking tracks can be closed in bad weather. There are plenty of camping spots and accomodation for visitors wishing to stay the night, and activities such as hiking, viewpoints, helicopter tours and information centres to accomodate for everybody's taste. Your first sighting of the Grand Canyon is something you will never forget.

 

South Beach Wine and Food Festival

  

South Beach Wine Food Festival

We all require food to survive, but far too many of us simply feed ourselves enough to get by without taking the time to really relish the practice of providing ourselves with sustenance. Spanning over 5 days on Miami Beach in Florida, The Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival hosts over 80 events and 400 chefs and culinary personalities, and is a huge celebration of everything we put in our mouths. Thousands of guests attend this event which has established itself as a favourite of industry professionals and top chefs.

Hosted by the Food Network and Cooking Channel and Florida International University's School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, this all out event features several dozen top celebrity chefs and industry leaders leading cooking events, presentations, special dinners, classes and delivering some unique and delicious food. And what is a good food festival without anything to drink? There are many impressive wines, often matched to the food on display, craft beer and artisanal liquors to enjoy with your meal.
One of the really unique factors of the festival is that many of the events and classes take part directly on the beach. Many of the tents of the chefs and winemakers and the Goya Foods' Grand Tasting Village are pitched into the sand. The remaining events, in the most part, are hosted at iconic Miami properties such as the Fontainbleau. The food festival does an excellent job of combining a cross section of Miami Beach culture and fantastic food by showcasing some of the best locations in the area to visitors.
As well as the tastings and food tents, there are a number of parties that accompany the event. Official and unofficial events are held all around Miami Beach, inviting guests into the world famous Miami nightlife scene.
Alongside the famous culinary experts, several other celebrities attend the event. In February 2017, Chef Guy Fieri teamed up with Snoop Dogg for a special presentation, followed by a DJ performance by Snoop Dogg. As the festival continues to establish it's place in the culinary world and to gain popularity and fame, we can expect to see many large names grace Miami Beach.
The event originates from a small event on Lincoln road in 1994, but ballooned into a larger event at the FIU University Campus in 1997 before it was relocated in 2001 to the beach, where it has grown to accomodate over 50,000 guests. The festival helps to run funds for the FIU's School of Hospitality and Tourism Management team, which helps to build the future of chefs and hospitality experts likely to be featured in the event in the years to come.
The event takes place annually in February, and most events are ticketed and sell out quickly so it is worth keeping your eyes on the official website to ensure you reserve your places before it's too late. The website for the 2018 event will launch in September 2017, and tickets are expected to go on sale in October 2017. This is every self acclaimed foodie's dream, and should not be missed.

 

Taylor Guitars

  

taylorguitars

Since 1974, Taylor have been manufacturing guitars from El Cajon in California, and since 2012, also in Tecate in Mexico. They are the second most successful manufacturers of acoustic guitars in the United States and now have over 700 employees.

Every weekday, at 1pm, it is possible to take a free tour of the factory in El Cajon, where a guide will take you through the process of guitar construction, right from selecting the correct woods for the manufacturing process to the completed finished product. The knowledgeable staff will be able to help you understand the differences in types of wood and the sound produced by each, the technical process of converting the raw material into the shape of the body, and also tell you all about the history of the company. Premier Guitars also published in 2008 a four part tour of the factory which has been narrated by Bob Taylor himself.
Taylor Guitars was founded by Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug, originally calling their company the “Westland Music Company”, but later changing the name to “Taylor” so that it could more easily fit onto the head of the guitars, and because “Taylor” sounded more American than “Listug”. They have become innovators in the world of acoustic guitars, often sought after for their top quality products and ethical manufacturing. They are used by artists such as Jason Mraz and Taylor Swift (although the latter could arguably be because of a naming coincidence instead of solely because of quality).
Bob has also dedicated part of his successful career to the development of a sustainable forestry trade, in particular with ebony. He recognises the changes in our planet and in climate conditions and wants to ensure that the materials he selects for his products are encouraging a better future for the environment, the consumers of his products, and also for the families and communities involved with gathering the raw materials he requires for production. Bob even runs a world forestry tour blog which highlights his efforts to raise awareness of this.
As well as offering tours of the factory, Taylor provide live musical streams of their featured artists on their Facebook page. Daria Musk is a popular artist who has gained more exposure through these live streams. They also release videos every Tuesday of artists showcasing their talent on Taylor guitars, sometimes relatively unknown to help boost popularity among those talented musicians who are struggling to gain recognition for their efforts.
As well as this, Taylor Guitars often goes on tour to showcase their new products with talented performers demonstrating the amazing sound qualities and features of their guitar range. They are often represented at musical events, or they take over music shops and other venues to host these evenings. A full list of upcoming events, of everything from the live streams to physical gatherings, can be found on both the Taylor website and on their Facebook page.
After playing a Taylor guitar, it's hard not to argue that they are some of the best in the world, and with roadshows, live streams, and product releases happening all the time, they are a fantastic brand to follow.

 

  
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