Although this weekend was partially about catching up on my to-do list, it was also time to celebrate the beautiful Cleveland summer we’ve been having and the Fourth of July.
There is something to be said about Independence Day. Even for just a few days, we forget our disillusionment with current politics and celebrate the history we share and potential for our country’s future.
And what better way to celebrate than with a bit of Americana finished off with some community fireworks?
On Saturday night, Scott and I started our holiday weekend by heading over to the Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-In in North Ridgeville.
Having a drive-in movie theatre in Cleveland’s backyard is one reason why I think this city is the best. A hidden gem, it’s a short ride to neighboring Lorain County.
Considering that there are only a few hundred drive-in theatres left in operation, we’re lucky that the Sherman family (who originally opened the Aut-O-Rama in 1965 and whose third generation is still operating it today) are keeping this Mom-&-Pop Americana tradition alive.
This was our second time at the drive-in. Last year, we checked out a double feature of Machete and Piranha 3-D — homages to grindhouse and monster movies perfect for the drive-in. This time, we went for Cars 2 and Green Lantern.
There are two screens at the Aut-O-Rama and every week each screen shows a different double feature. With tickets costing $9 to see 2 movies, the Aut-O-Rama is above and beyond a good bargain.
However, it’s about more than the price of seeing a movie. Going to the drive-in is also about sharing in a classically American experience that has been part of our culture for 78 years.
Sure, changes have been made. For instance, there are no more speakers to hang on the car, but full stereo sound through two FM stations, and their selection of food is always expanding (my favorites include pickle chips, corn dogs and hummus). Regardless of the improved amenities, though, you feel transported to a simpler experience that can at times be more engaging than any modern multiplex.
Scott and I started our evening enjoying food al fresco and watching Cars 2 from our camping chairs. When Saturday’s thunderstorms kicked up, we quickly jumped inside the car. Although the lightning bolts and roaring thunder made Pixar’s latest a more riveting movie, nothing could save Green Lantern.
Thankfully, another plus of the drive-in meant that I could curl up on the backseat of the car and sleep while Scott endured the rest of Green Lantern (apparently, I didn’t miss anything). And while I would have left a modern multiplex frustrated to pay for an overpriced ticket of a dreadful film, the overall experience of the Aut-O-Rama made up for it.
The Aut-O-Rama is a first-run theatre open from the beginning of April until the end of September. Between Memorial and Labor Days, it’s open 7 days a week and at the beginning and end of the season, open Friday through Sunday.
If you want to keep track of what shows they’re featuring each week, I’ve found signing up for their once-weekly email is really helpful (plus it always includes a coupon for deal-seekers like me).
On Sunday we packed our car up again with blankets, a picnic and our bocce ball set (fortunately the folding chairs were still there from the night before) for Avon Lake’s annual ArtsFest.
This is the third year the Fourth of July celebration has taken place on Lake Erie at Miller Road Park. Organized by the Avon Lake “Friends of the Park,” the day is filled with hanging out on the beach or fishing off the pier and enjoying games and other community activities in the park.
When I think about Fourth of July growing up – spent cooking out with neighbors on the Chesapeake Bay, the lakeside ArtsFest is the closest I’ve come to the same feeling.
After checking out the tents filled with local artisans and businesses, we picked a spot near the park’s mainstage and set up camp. While enjoying the paninis, salad, and snacks we had picked up from the grocery store (tastily complemented by that morning’s delivery of pickles from Kliːvlənd Pickle Works), Scott and I relaxed in the sun and listened to a full day of musical performances.
After their appearance at the Duct Tape Festival, a major ArtsFest draw for us was seeing the Smoking Fez Monkeys. In addition to a few of the songs that won us over at their Father’s Day concert, we heard a couple new favorites we missed in June – including Codfish Ball and Shimmy Like My Sister Kate.
When the Smokin Fez Monkeys wrapped, TrueNorth Chorale & Symphony took the stage for a pre-fireworks show. This year they presented A Grand Night for Singing, featuring the music of Rodgers & Hammerstein.
Rick Fortney, the Founder and Artistic Director of Lorain County’s multidisciplinary arts organization, led the skilled singers and musicians in classic American musical numbers like Maria, Honey Bun and Some Enchanted Evening (which I took inspiration from for the name of this post). Having both contributed to a few Rodgers and Hammerstein productions in high school, Scott and I found ourselves singing along to more than a few of the numbers.
However, this was just a warmup for TrueNorth’s concert of patriotic music and fireworks. Due to the wind, things started a little late so we were treated to a preview of their staging of Big River which opens July 15. After a few songs from Huckleberry Finn, Jim and Pap Finn, the crowd that had filled the park finally got what they patiently waited for as we counted down to the fireworks.
For me, there’s nothing that compares to Avon Lake’s fireworks. It may not be as large as the Boston Pops spectacle on TV, but I love being able to sit right under the lights while looking out at the lake and seeing it lit up with their reflection. With the symphony’s music swelling in time to the explosions, it was an enchanting experience that made me marvel at the city and country I call home.
Aut-O-Rama / ArtsFest 411: