Tag Archives: Aut-O-Rama

Some Enchanted (Holiday) Weekend

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?

The Aut-O-Rama Drive-In: Our First Stop this Holiday Weekend

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.

Camping out at our car with a tasty spread from the concessions stand.

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.

It's almost show time as all of the cars line up at the Drive-In's two screens

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.


Scott patiently tunes our radio to the drive-in movie station

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).

The community gathered at Miller Rd Park on Sunday for Avon Lake ArtsFest

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.

Earlier in the day, beach-goers and boaters enjoyed the lake

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.

The Smokin Fez Monkeys performing before the TrueNorth Symphony

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:

Labor Day in Cleveland – 3 Days of Festivals, Food and Fun

With Labor Day comes the unofficial end of summer. Even though the Fall Equinox is weeks away and there seems to be no end in sight to the stifling heat, Clevelanders who want to grasp that last bit of summer have a huge variety of festivals, parties, and other events to choose from this weekend.    

The Rock Hall celebrates its 15th Anniversary (from rockhall.com)


Kicking things off this weekend is the Rock Hall Ball. On Friday, Sept. 3, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a party from 8:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.  Live bands and DJs will perform, including soul singer Eli “Paperboy” Reed, alternative rock band Foxy Shazam and DJ Tommie Sunshine.  Two levels of tickets allow flexibility in cost. Platinum tickets ($55 member/$65 non-member) include access at 8:30 p.m., hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine until 12:30 a.m. and entertainment until 2 a.m. Vinyl Tickets ($15) include access at 10 p.m., cash bar and entertainment.    

Labor Day will also feature weekend-long festivals such as:    

  • Labor Day Oktoberfest – At the Berea Fairgrounds will be the 6th Annual Labor Day Oktoberfest. From attending previous Oktoberfests, I recommend indulging in this weekend of oompah bands, brats and beer.  In addition to the food and the beer, years past have had merchants and other organizations promoting a variety of ethnic backgrounds. New this year – the Cleveland Pops Orchestra will perform Beethoven’s celebrated Fifth Symphony.  I’ll be dusting off my alpine hat and putting on my polka-dancing shoes for this.
  • Cleveland Air Show – As the photo in my last post showed, I love attending air shows, and Cleveland’s annual celebration of flying machines at Burke Lakefront Airport is listed as one of the 101 Best Aviation Attractions. Although it runs Sept. 4 -6,  if you’re downtown this week, you can see – and hear – the jets and planes practicing.  Nearby businesses and museums will also be hosting ‘Watch Parties’ including Reddstone’s When Pigs Fly Block Party on Sunday and the weekend-long William G. Mather Air Show Deck Party at nearby Great Lakes Science Center.
  • Taste of Cleveland – The other major downtown festival this weekend is the 15th annual Taste of Cleveland which will feature national entertainment acts and regional food traditional to Northeast Ohio. In addition to the 30+ restaurants that will be at the event, there will be the American Wine School Tasting Bar and cooking demonstrations such as the “Cooking with Kids” parents/children class, the Ohio Natural Gas Ultimate Backyard Kitchen and the 7th Annual Time Warner Cable Mayors’ Dessert Cup Challenge. One of the entertainment acts Scott and I are most looking forward to: “Weird Al” Yankovic on Friday night. What can I say? We’re UHF fans.

Der Glockenspiel - an actual working clock - is one of the attractions at Oktoberfest (from clevelandoktoberfest.com)


If festivals aren’t your thing or you’re looking for a one-off event this weekend, there are other options including:    

  • The Cleveland Orchestra and Joffrey Ballet – On Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 p.m., the Joffrey Ballet returns to the Blossom Music Festival. The Ballet  joins Conductor Tito Muñoz and the Cleveland Orchestra in their presentation of Reflections (choreographed to music by Tchaikovsky), Tarantella (choreographed to Louis Gottschlak), and Pretty BALLET (choregraphed to Bohuslav Martinů). 
  • Cedar Point – Labor Day Weekend is the last weekend to visit the Soak City Waterpark in 2010. It’s also the end of Cedar Point’s regular season. Starting on Sept. 17, the park will open back up for Halloweekends.
  • Aut-O-Rama Drive-In – This weekend, audiences at the North Ridgeville drive-in movie theatre have their choice of a kid-friendly double feature with Toy Story 3 and Nanny McPhee Returns  or cult-classics-to-be Machete and Piranha.
  • The Happy Dog – DJ Kishka’s Polka Happy Hour is back this Friday from 6-9 p.m. (if you can’t make it to this one, he’ll also be at the Happy Dog on the 17th). After DJ Kishka, Adam Tanner and Mark Jackson of North Carolina’s Twilite Broadcasters bring their two-part harmony vocals and acoustic accompaniment to the Happy Dog from 9 p.m. til midnight.
  • Cleveland Polka Association Picnic – The Cleveland Polka Association’s B.Y.O.E. (Bring Your Own Everything) Picnic takes place on Monday, Sept. 6 at  St. Sava’s Picnic Grove (2300 West Ridgewood Drive, Parma). Gate opens at 2 p.m., musical performances run from 3-7 p.m. including Canton, OH’s Polkatones. (More information or large table reservations: 216-661-5227)

The Aut-O-Rama Drive-In presents Machete and Piranha (from autoramadrivein.com)


Fortunately, it’s a three-day weekend, which means plenty of opportunities to experience your share of these end-of-summer events.